The Way We Live

I’m late with Friday’s poem. I was trying to find a suitable poem by Vicki Feaver but couldn’t find any of her earlier work online but in the end went for this one. The reason for this was that I stumbled on one of her poems in one of my poetry books and remembered that she had taught at my secondary school. She did a special session for some students and I was one of them. I was a difficult teenager then and I do not think I appreciated having a poet-in-residence. I also do not think she particularly enjoyed the sessions she spent with us. I think we were involved in some kind of collaborative project although I do not recall the details. We definitely had to write a poem although I do not think I have mine now. Our classes took place in the beautiful William Morris decorated library at my school – sound posh but it wasn’t, it was a state school but “happened” to inhabit a house owned by Sanderson who had had William Morris decorate it, as you did then! Anyway, I thought I would show Vicki Feaver more respect than I did when she taught me by including her in my lockdown poems. This poem is probably from around that time when she visited my school. It is pretty bleak but the imagery reminds me of other poems by her we studied.

The Way We Live

In rooms whose lights
On winter evenings
Make peepshows of our lives –

Behind each window
A stage so cluttered up
With props and furniture.

It’s not surprising
We make a mess of what began
So simply with I love you.

Look at us: some
Slumped in chairs
And hardly ever speaking

And others mouthing
The same tired lines to ears
That long ago stopped listening.

Once we must have dreamed
Of something better.
But even those who swapped.

One partner for another
Have ended up
Just like the rest of us:

Behind doors, moving outside
Only to go to work
Or spend weekends with mother.

From Close Relatives, 1981 (included in 100 Poems that Could Save your Life edited by Daisy Goodwin, 1999).

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