Megan Married Herself

She arrived at the country mansion in a silver limousine.
She’d sent out invitations and everything:
her name written twice with “&” in the middle,
the calligraphy of coupling.
She strode down the aisle to “At Last” by Etta James,
faced the celebrant like a keen soldier reporting for duty,
her voice shaky yet sure. I do. I do.
“You may now kiss the mirror.” Applause. Confetti.
Every single one of the hundred and forty guests
deemed the service “unimprovable.”
Especially the vows. So “from the heart.”
Her wedding gown was ivory; pointedly off-white,
“After all, we’ve shared a bed for thirty-two years,”
she quipped in her first speech,
“I’m hardly virginal if you know what I mean.”
(No one knew exactly what she meant.)
Not a soul questioned their devotion.
You only had to look at them. Hand cupped in hand.
Smiling out of the same eyes. You could sense
their secret language, bone-deep, blended blood.
Toasts were frequent, tearful. One guest
eyed his wife — hovering harmlessly at the bar — and
imagined what his life might’ve been if
he’d responded, years ago, to that offer in his head:
“I’m the only one who will ever truly understand you.
Marry me, Derek. I love you. Marry me.”

At the time, he hadn’t taken his proposal seriously.
He recharged his champagne flute, watched
the newlywed cut her five-tiered cake, both hands
on the knife. “Is it too late for us to try?” Derek whispered
to no one, as the bride glided herself onto the dance floor,
taking turns first to lead then follow.

Caroline Bird
Taken from her new book, In These Days of Prohibition, and previously published in Poetry Magazine.

The Script

Happiness writes in white on a white page
- Henry de Montherlant

Loneliness writes in expensive blue.
Loneliness writes hastily at midnight and presses send
and takes it all back in the morning. It uses
a fountain pen that it will never own.

Loneliness goes to a bar where it once drank
and scribbles this on the back of a beer mat.
It writes how the trees write under Stanage
with their shadows, tangled and undone.

Loneliness writes short stories where strangers
meet and fuck in cheap hotels. It speaks with the voice
of the man begging by The Rosebowl –
I’m not drunk and my dog isn’t drunk either.

Loneliness is a child taking the register
when the teacher is away. Loneliness writes
your secrets carefully and folds them up
and slips them in the minutes for the next meeting.

Loneliness sends you a text with four kisses
and deletes it straight away. It writes
the night is a cup and you cannot fill it.

Loneliness inks your body with a needle
and when it’s finished, says
isn’t this what you asked for?

Loneliness has a pen name and it is your name
backwards, on windowpanes in the town
where you grew up. It keeps a diary

but you aren’t allowed to read it. Loneliness
runs out of stamina before the good part.
It writes the end of the novel before it writes the start.

Loneliness gives you the script –
you take it and you read it. You’re reading it now.

Helen Mort

The Five O'clock Poem

This is the five o'clock poem.

Good evening.

Almost everything that has happened today
is in the five o'clock poem.
Trust in it being the truth.
This is the five o'clock poem.
The five o'clock poem began somewhere sometime ago.
The five o'clock poem has been scooped and hacked.
All jargon has been removed from the five o'clock poem.
The five o'clock poem has been meticulously researched.
The reporter has recorded a feature on the five o'clock poem.
The editor has sighed over the five o'clock poem.
The five o'clock poem has been torn from typewriters and tape.
A webpage has been produced about the five o'clock poem.
But first, the five o'clock poem.
Downing Street has denied the five o'clock poem.
Video footage has emerged of the five o'clock poem.
Police have raided the headquarters of the five o'clock poem.
The Education Secretary has announced the testing of the five o'clock poem.
The death has been announced of the five o'clock poem.
This has been the five o'clock poem.
Good evening.

Rachel McCrum