As a young man his hair is black—
and as an older man. His jealous friends
try to make him drink too much—
and fall in love. ‘My friends,’ he says,
‘The moon is high. I can do that
by myself.’ His mother weeps
to see him leave. His home so warm,
she cannot understand, was it not warm
enough? Far lands beckon—whores
already at the corner of the street. He
looks into their eyes, and they know—
with him they will retain their virginity.
His bitter friends watch his progress
through the town. ‘Yes,’ they think,
‘but if they had been pretty.’


He shocks his neighbours when he
leaves—in broad daylight. And the priest
who thought he’d always be in
his parish—a credit to the community. A man
who would not chew—the Holy Sacrament—
whose tongue did not seem to even
touch it (How the young priest trembled
with those clear eyes upon him!).
All excitement gone out of the Mass now.
And his good voice. (And the sad, young
women—whom he never seemed to
notice, but was always polite to.)


And the sad, young women
whom he never seemed to notice,
but was always polite to—still wear
their red and yellow dresses
as they used to. But they do not shimmer,
in the churchlight, like they used to do.
He’d think of them, more than he let on.
All his good friends saw was his soft
silk cravat. Casually, they’d let a word
drop, clit, into the conversation—
only for him to give the Latin
derivation. Perhaps he’d been fooling, after all.
It is said, he is living with a redhead
in Birmingham. His friends receive letters—
his hand is still under control.