Several years ago on holiday, I sat next to a family at a beachside cafe/restaurant, it was in Portugal and when this family beside me got up to leave I noticed that the teenage girl only had one leg, and everybody in the restaurant stared at her. And I'm very conscious that I stared at her the most. I know that to this day - you know when you do that thing when you stare at someone, and you feel guilty, because you know you shouldn?t really be looking, but I couldn't help it. She was so young, and so beautiful. So when I got home she kept appearing in my head, so I made her appear in this poem.

A Man Greets His Wife from Her Short Break Away

The first thing they do is embrace.

Fat smiles stay on their faces

all the way to the restaurant.


He eats ribs with sticky, podgy fingers.

She bites chicken wings with shiny lips,

They have a pudding each and share another.


In the car, she tells him about a girl she saw,

with a short, spotted skirt that flapped

around one long limb.


There wasn’t even a stump to satisfy me,

just a space where the leg should’ve been.

‘Was she very pretty?’


‘Yes she was.’

They stop talking and at traffic lights

he strokes her thigh, instead of saying


how sad her story sounds. Quietly, he resents the one-legged girl

for changing the mood between them. resents his wife

for telling him the tale at all.


Making love to her later, it’s a pretty teenager

sitting astride his wide belly. One leg tucked behind,

leaving the torso, smooth and deformed, moving over him.

from The Anatomy of Structures (Flambard Press, 2010), © Rebecca Goss 2010. used by permission of the author.

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