The Yorkshire Poetry Prize 2015

 

Home Safe

 

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. 

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