Always Absence

He doesn’t have to do this,
he went first.

He would have managed with his 3 ems –
motorbikes, meditation and men friends.

I’m sure another woman in his life too.
From twenty on
he was never without.

I manage,
as I said
I would.


Bedtime Sadness

Sometimes going to bed without you
is still hard.

I do these my days
day after day.
Nearly a thousand
since you slipped away.

I was interested in his days
and he in mine.
He was in my days
and I in his.
He was my chosen person, always.

And now there is space
and only my thoughts,

A monologue running in my head.

Pudding, no cream.

Sea, no surfboard.


I Miss You

I did not choose to live alone.
I chose to live with you.
Thirty-six years
of choosing that.

If I follow my mother’s longevity,
another thirty-six years
of having
what I did not choose.

I see the advantages of my solo life,
but sometimes
my widowhood feels like
premature menopause.


Despite Everything

My daughters help,
and the grandchildren,
my wider family,
all my friends,
cat, house, garden, allotment,
polytunnel, neighbours.

The list is endless,
bike, river,
walks along the ridge,
electric blanket, radio 4,
books, films,
yoga, dance,
singing, writing,
seaside holidays,

They all help, my life packed.

I am happy.

And lonely.

A raspberry ripple life.


Crochet not Knitting

There is a lot of learning to do.
And it is lonely
learning without you.

We were doing very nicely,
knitting together harmoniously
from one fat ball of wool,
the soft, strong cloth stretching out behind us.

You suddenly dropped out,
spinning away into oblivion,
your stitches slipping into a void.
Some caught by me just in time,
others left suspended, gaping open.
Any of my movements dangerous,
threatening the unravelling
of all we had created together.

There was a pause of shock.
Slowly, very carefully,
I picked up each hanging stitch,
claimed it as my own,
so the cloth remained intact.

But what next?
Only one needle.

Switching to crochet?
A single-needle craft.
The actions would change,
and the feel and look of the cloth,
with a marked break of transition.

I have never done crochet.

I have always been
a two-needle knitter.


Mornings without You

I want you there, making coffee.

Every detail of your coffee-making ritual
known to me, putting the kettle on,
finding the measure in the drawer,
the walk to the fridge for the packet,
the careful levelling of the scoop,
tipping out twice, a double knock,
pouring on the boiling water.

After a pause, laying your place
with toast, butter, marmalade, plate, knife,
the gentle steady pressure on the coffee-pot lid.

Finally to the table, with your favourite mug.
Radio 4. And often conversation.

Now, I do yoga alone in the conservatory,
the only sound and movement
the turning of the washing machine.

The kitchen behind me otherwise quiet.

Empty and still.

No coffee smell.


I Want to Talk to Him

I want to talk to him

about our daughters,
their lives, the changes,
how we were at their age,
similarities, differences,
to understand them,
and us, better.

I want to talk to him

about his beautiful shed,
the leaking roof, what to do,
my constant joy in seeing it in the garden,
long and low, all timber,
how I use it now.

I want to talk to him

about my yoga holiday,
the dance class,
my visit to a friend,
the book I’m reading,
the huge crop of carrots,
the new place
to keep the jam.


The Gift of Tears

I cry most days,
in the house,
along the river.

Sometimes with joy and relief,
sometimes just tiredness,
or my endless sadness.

A minute or two of tears.

Whatever the feeling,
a valve is released,
the steam escapes,
I can become fully present again,
seeing clearly,
alive to the world.

The drying salt on my cheeks
a symbol of my constant gratitude.


Balloon Time

You are gone,
but memories of you,
and gratitude,
and love,
inflate every cell in my body.

Luckily my structure,
bones, muscles, tendons,
is strong and taut,

Able to contain the pressure,
maintain inner and outer balance.

But sometimes I grow so big
I am jammed,
cannot move,
on the stairs, in the shower,
between your two sheds.

A tiring process,
this hidden life
without you.


The Big Gap

I have always hated
breaking or losing things.
A cup, a bowl,
gloves, a scarf
left on a train.

The gap hurts,
gone the pleasure,
its comfort,

And the waste,
china into landfill.
(At least with clothing,
someone else benefits).

But for pain and loss
your going beats
every piece of crockery,
every small garment.


The Long Grief

After thirty-six years together, from the initial miracle,
through family, parenting, work, fun, holidays, full lives,
to the warm steady closeness of your illness and dying,
these two years seem as nothing.
Our last precious times together as vivid as ever,
indeed more so, unexpected.

Of course there was shock at the beginning,
and the busy distractions of funeral, probate, paperwork,
selling your precious motor-bikes,
big adjustments to all the individual minutiae of
our rich, complex daily rounds.
So much new,
re-shaping the house for one,
family relationships re-forming round the huge gap you left,
learning alone to live alone.

Now in calmer waters, I have time and space to reflect.

These days I miss you more deeply.
Longing and pain swipe me sideways,
as I know at last
the specialness of what we created together.

This is the real start of my solo journey without you,
the long slog of hurting.



A man swims across the bay
and I wish it was you.

A man steps off the bus
and I wish it was you.


Grey Day

Sometimes it’s a dull ache,
this missing you,
a heavy drag,
slowing me down,
shunting me into a siding.

Where I wait in grey,
chilly stillness,
till it passes,

and I can re-emerge,
my fire alight,
steam up,
pounding down
the main line again.


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