The Yorkshire Poetry Prize 2015
She feels his skin, his stubbly hair, touches him
as she’s dreamt of touching him through months
of not listening to the morning news, to any news
in case of roadside bombs or choppers down.
But now it’s fatted calf and sex and visits from the in-laws,
sweet normality of getting in the shopping and trips to B&Q,
he remarks how small and light their car is.
These weeks she can’t stop touching him,
fingertips to his hand, his thigh, to check
he’s here, he’s really here, home safe.
The weeks she thinks she has him back,
when his smell, his tread on the stairs, are golden
fog she doesn’t see through – the marvel of his shoes
by the door and his toothbrush in the bathroom.
Before the patches of time when he isn’t here
his gaze sliding over the windows, her face.
At night, she reaches out and he’s not there
he’s up, on patrol, checking the locks,
one night she wakes to find his hand above her mouth
checking she’s still breathing.
She rings help-lines, rings doctors,
she wants to travel into darkness, bring him up
but she can’t follow him, can’t see him there
sees instead, herself in the hall mirror
sitting on the floor, sobbing into the phone
he’s not here, Mum, he’s not really here.