Fleur Adcock

Having sex with the dead

How can it be reprehensible?
The looks on their dead faces, as they plunge
into you, your hand circling a column

of one-time flesh and pulsing blood that now
has long been ash and dispersed chemicals.
The half-glimpsed mirror over their shoulders.

This one on the floor of his sitting-room
unexpectedly, one far afternoon;
that one whose house you broke into, climbing

through his bathroom window after a row.
The one who called you a mermaid; the one
who was gay, really, but you both forgot.

They have all forgotten now: forgotten
you and their wives and the other mermaids
who slithered in their beds and took their breath.

Disentangle your fingers from their hair.
Let them float away, like Hylas after
the nymphs dragged him gurgling into the pool.

Author’s Note


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