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The Clothes-peg


How it had happened they neither of them knew

but it only got worse. He hated the blank

blue ice of his stare and she couldn't bear

her thin voice telling him to turn

down the TV please, to stop diddling

with that clothes-peg, which without thinking he

clipped to the hem of her cardigan hanging

over the newel post as he mooched past.

It was Margaret at work who pointed it out

and all day it kept on taking her hand

by surprise, a bump in her cardigan pocket.

So naturally closing his old Noah's Ark

curtains that evening she pegged them together.

A few mornings later it waylaid her

inside her shoe. She snapped it on the end

of his toothbrush handle, so it wouldn't pull through

the holder, and found it next clipping the ear

of Humph, her venerable bear. For him she left it

dangling in the dark from the plastic light pull

in the bathroom, where he lit on the pot

of Paracetamol and dibbled it in.

It felt like a biro caught in his train pass

as he brought it out to show the guard,

and tugging a Kleenex out of the box

she spluttered at the clatter, but said nothing,

just hung it from the lining inside his tie

ready for the morning. And now the drizzle starts

as she's driving to work, she laughs out loud -

lifted by it skimming back and forth

riding on the stalk of the wiper blade.


from The Tightrope Wedding (1999)


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