Out of the warm primordial cave
of our conversations, Jack’s gone.
No more chit-chat under the blankets
pegged over chairs and nipped in drawers.
Throughout his first five years an ear
always open, at worst ajar,
I catch myself still listening out
for sounds of him in the sensible house
where nothing stirs but the washing machine
which clicks and churns. I’m loosening his arms
clasped round my neck, detaching myself
from his soft protracted kiss goodbye.
Good boy, diminishing down the long
corridors into the huge unknown
assembly hall, each word strange,
even his name on Miss Cracknell’s tongue.
From Thinking of Happiness (1991)