Oh be quiet by Natalie Shaw
The poems in this pamphlet explore several different small moments of realisation. They sometimes take place at a threshold moment, when someone is crossing from one state to another.
Things that I say to my enemy
While my enemy sleeps, I stand outside her house.
I send beetles into her dreams, a cockroach, a man
who hates her, someone running, the sly but persistent
notion her friends are only pretending to listen.
While my enemy sleeps, I turn others against her. I mention
things she has said that sound unpleasant, I kick
her leg while no one is watching. I let her see
letters from others in which she barely features.
I ask her a question I know she can’t answer, I snub her
at parties, I steal her ideas; I pretend I can’t hear her,
I say she looks lovely then laugh at her dress. I delight
in the shadows that lengthen under her eyes, and note
with glee that her hair is quite greasy but mostly I shiver
to think of her lying awake and alone. I whisper
it’s true that she’ll never have boyfriends, a wedding, or babies
with soft little hands, her milk in their soft little mouths.
I was on Wikipedia looking for something
and I found eleven missing days, imagine.
I spent a couple as a man
in his early thirties. I had a convertible,
I wore sunglasses. I parked wherever I wanted.
I had fun like people in adverts have fun, Lynx for example.
Then I went back to the stately home we visited
and had tea on the lawn. I was
Isabel Archer at the beginning of
Portrait of a Lady, except this time
I knew to avoid the grand European Tour
and instead I stayed at home
and practised the pieces
that normally I don’t have time to.
Now I can play them all really well.
I learnt how to cha cha cha too,
all those dances we were going to dance together
but never got round to, you’ll be amazed
when you see me. It went really quickly,
on the whole. All those beautiful, empty minutes
to spend in the sun, drinking espressos
and eating ice creams in Venice, Siena. I’m sure
any one of you would’ve done the same,
but I found them first and I’m sorry, they’re gone.