Friday Poem – From ‘You’ by John Haynes

With Valentine’s Day on the 14th February, this week’s Friday Poem is taken from the long-poem You by Costa-Award winning poet John Haynes.

You is a book-length poem by the late poet John Haynes. The ‘You’ of the title is the narrator’s partner and wife of many years. The book is not just a celebration of, and meditation on, personal love and devotion, but a record of how such love moves out of a family and is refracted out into the community and the wider world. The tensions inherent in this are compounded by the cross-cultural nature of the union. The narrator is a white British man and his wife was born and raised in Nigeria. Exploring a partnership based on culturally quite different – and in some aspects painfully incompatible –conceptions of ‘love’, the poem  is knit together by philosophical themes of ‘I’ and ‘you’ seen from many perspectives. Shortlisted for the T.S Eliot Prize.

that they flew back across the whole Sahara
sleeping on the wing, as you begin
to now, with those small sounds, back to Kagoma –
that house where I met your mother in
her starched tall headtie and her Dutch wax print
and just a little shy to meet your White
Man, but so glad with wrinkles smiling tight –

just as I bend across you, turn the lamp
off, draw the curtains, thinking with what skill
I managed it on that rickety camp
bed, making love with not the faintest squeal
or crunk of springs. Like press-ups, I recall,
rugby-fit then, mouth open while I howled
into the dark not letting out a sound,

or that night, at the dam, when we made love,
remember, there beside the road, half in
the car half out, with confidence enough
to dare the world to drive towards us, then
with full light on, and nights at Number Ten,
insane with flesh, and resurrected new
again each time as neither I nor you.

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