0371 Reading Behind The Lines - Poem by Michael Shepherd
So if it makes you feel great,
OK, go ahead -
as long as you're making yourself more attractive
for me, not your next husband...
OK, look like Anne Robinson if you must;
yes, she is great seen full-face, I grant
but now she's got no profile
to match those wit-sharp comments
to a sideways glance...
and yes, it's blushingly well-known
than a man can't even recognise his own wife in a crowd
if she's had her hair done in the interim...
so who am I - except the one who loves you
like the supper we've had every week
since we were courting? ...
but let me just say this:
I who have loved you
in my quiet way
like a favourite book (now, where did I put it? ...)
love those fine lines, that time and - we - have etched;
we men, surprise, are something of a connoisseur of lines:
the lines that cross your forehead: there, because
you're just so silly about not being seen by other men
with spectacles on your nose -
as if that told strange men
a lie and not the truth...
if they were lines of worry, anxiety, failure -
they'd be my responsibility, not yours...
and then the lines around the mouth:
that's a national thing in part -
it's well known that American women
welcome you with open mouth;
(and teeth! ...pearls? more like spotlights...) but
Europeans greet you with a smile of eyes;
(and there are cruder analogies I'll leave unsaid) :
so look carefully, man,
those smile-lines - a little forced;
accommodating show-biz whopping tooth-caps?
upward and sweet-natured? or that downward turn
that bespeaks a critical mind you might come home to every night?
then the lines under your eyes - none of my business, those:
that's a matter of heredity or, OK, cosmetic surgery...
please yourself, my darling;
you've bags of skin, I've bags of money. That was a joke.
but the lines around the sides of your sweet eyes -
ah, how I love those...
the European smile that makes a man's heart melt;
'crow's feet' indeed! there's written, years of happy life,
and children, friends; the world itself
in those sweet lines...
' In those dear lines, my love, your soul is caught;
Your soul; my life; without them I am aught.'...
OK go ahead, spend my money if it makes you happy -
you know I'll always go along with you...
(I don't know yet, how I'll respond
at parties now when carefree younger men
give you that searching glance that chancers give...)
But please, I beg of you, don't ask your surgeon
with his character-erasing tools
to take away those lines around the corners of your eyes,
that smile at me
from a lifetime that's been shared.
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