“To His Lost Lover” by Simon Armitage


Now they are no longer
any trouble to each other

he can turn things over, get down to that list
of things that never happened, all of the lost

unfinishable business.
For instance… for instance,

how he never clipped and kept her hair, or drew a hairbrush
through that style of hers, and never knew how not to blush

at the fall of her name in close company.
How they never slept like buried cutlery –

two spoons or forks cupped perfectly together,
or made the most of some heavy weather –

walked out into hard rain under sheet lightning,
or did the gears while the other was driving.

How he never raised his fingertips
to stop the segments of her lips

from breaking the news,
or tasted the fruit

or picked for himself the pear of her heart,
or lifted her hand to where his own heart

was a small, dark, terrified bird
in her grip. Where it hurt.

Or said the right thing,
or put it in writing.

And never fled the black mile back to his house
before midnight, or coaxed another button of her blouse,

then another,
or knew her

favourite colour,
her taste, her flavour,

and never ran a bath or held a towel for her,
or soft-soaped her, or whipped her hair

into an ice-cream cornet or a beehive
of lather, or acted out of turn, or misbehaved

when he might have, or worked a comb
where no comb had been, or walked back home

through a black mile hugging a punctured heart,
where it hurt, where it hurt, or helped her hand

to his butterfly heart
in its two blue halves.

And never almost cried,
and never once described

an attack of the heart,
or under a silk shirt

nursed in his hand her breast,
her left, like a tear of flesh

wept by the heart,
where it hurts,

or brushed with his thumb the nut of her nipple,
or drank intoxicating liquors from her navel.

Or christened the Pole Star in her name,
or shielded the mask of her face like a flame,

a pilot light,
or stayed the night,

or steered her back to that house of his,
or said “Don’t ask me how it is

I like you.
I just might do.”

How he never figured out a fireproof plan,
or unravelled her hand, as if her hand

were a solid ball
of silver foil

and discovered a lifeline hiding inside it,
and measured the trace of his own alongside it.

But said some things and never meant them –
sweet nothings anybody could have mentioned.

And left unsaid some things he should have spoken,
about the heart, where it hurt exactly, and how often.


Simon Armitage, from The Book of Matches (Faber, 1993)

7 thoughts on ““To His Lost Lover” by Simon Armitage

    1. I originally saw this with just a stanza quoted, but it prompted me to look up the whole…It left me breathless.

      Oh…and to your question… First, don’t stifle your own voice. Your style and technique is your own and it’s genuine. It’s hard to fake good poetry. But maybe channel some happy times, from childhood maybe? Or for fun, write in character as someone else, like a movie character or book heroine. Just don’t lose your “you-ness.” ❤


      1. Definitely breathless.

        Awesome! I’ll try it, that’s great advice. I’ve attempted persona poems, which I usually don’t post, but it’s sometimes hard to think of characters. A movie or book character is a great idea! Thank you so much ❤


      2. Sure thing hon. Also, Writer’s Digest usually has poetry prompts on Wednesday; I’ll look for their link for you.
        I draw a lot of my inspo from music…I’ll listen to a song on repeat and jot thoughts that come to me.
        Also, you can always do a response poem too. For some reason, Scarlet and Melanie came to mind earlier (from Gone With the Wind). Or even from the POV of Prissy (I don’t know nuthin about birthin babies!) Of course you could always go more recent, or put old characters into present circumstance. Scroll through some classic movie or book lists…I bet ya one will jump out at you.

        Link for you soon….


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