Husband

is not a word I’d ever care to use
for you; oxen-like it drags behind 
it others – tillage, tithe, stable, wife.
Yoked beneath a double load of labour
and love, it’s stumbled into this century
with so much baggage as if it meant to stay
and see how it pulls short a loose woman 
with a band that snags as often as it shines.

You, a farmer’s son, are not inclined
to ask too much of words (casually
you shed the names of all the flowering grasses)
but I’m of arty liberal stock – the worst
for seeking meaning that plainly isn’t there.
The book says hus– “house”, buandi “inhabiting”;
so does he inhabit the house, or is he
the house? The possibilities are many

and pointing to the same slammed door.
But I’ll not hold you to a photo look nor lay you
under a stone of Loving Husband To  ___ .
Still, I need you to come to the city tonight,
to this rented room – I’ll be up all night
with a stick, a line that’s come up clear and blue;
a dot in position to replace that word,
my love, with one that will at least be true.

 

from At Home in the Dark (Anvil, 2001), ? Greta Stoddart 2001, used by permission of the author and the publishers

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