Harry Ricketts

The unmade bed

She sits on the unmade bed, just right
of centre, with something in her hands.
Her dark hair hangs in one long pigtail

down over her right shoulder, the left
her white nightie, décolleté, leaves bare.
Her dropped face, that winsome, downward stare.

On the floor near her naked, crossed feet
are two petite brown boots: one lies flat,
the other toes a blur of paper.

If the scene were contemporary,
she could be holding some flash iPod
or iPhone. She could be listening

to Leonard Cohen, Gillian Welch.
But this almost homely bedsit—wood-
ceilinged, clothes flopped on chair, wash-basin

tucked away in the hearth (what’s that shoe
doing on the crumbling mantelpiece?)—
must surely be nineteenth century.

Not English though with that crucifix
hazy behind the open shutter.
Continental? Some provincial

French town, perhaps. A miniature,
that’s what she is holding: his picture.
Does the paper—a letter?—announce

he’s died or loves another (‘Ma chère
Lisette ...’)? Could that black aquascutum,
angled beside the chest of drawers,

have been his? His features swim, she feels
his touch, quickens, finds her mind go numb.
Sunlight slants through the window, catches

the pretty, floral bedspread, picks out
a painting above it on the wall.
Shadows. Steps. A locked embrace. She wears

a blue dress, he a red cape, jaunty
plume in his cap. She is leaning back
to receive a last, quick, lunging kiss.

This is how it should have, should have, been.
Not here, alone on an unmade bed,
in this room, bright, sad, slightly shabby.

Author’s Note


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