Unanswered Love Letter Poem by Dorothy Hewett

Unanswered Love Letter

It rained in Sydney all next day,
And all I could hear was the sound of the baby crying
In the room next door, the key in the lock saying:
Come in, we are transient, and we have taken up our bed already
And walked: what have we left here with the bed unmade
And the rain still falling in the concrete yard outside the window.
Did we bury each other in that cubicle like a second womb,
So dark, with water in the closet to wash away our sins.
What have the sins of the flesh to do with this...
Stripped to the bone and staring through the dark,
Nothing to cover us now, we will rise up, ironical phoenixes,
Burnt as black as a scarecrow satire on love.
Motels are built for the twenty minute climax:
Cars and motels and trains, all the trappings of transience,
And wristlet watches ticking in time to the rain,
Saying, two hours is little enough to repair a wrong.
I learnt an old truth in your arms last night,
A woman can break a man on the wheel of self,
And laughter is lovelier than tears in bed.
Always the compulsion to retrace the footsteps
Of the dream that was never made; ‘Stay with me,'
But ‘I must go now. I am responsible for my wife,
I am not responsible for you.'
You are responsible for the rain of memory,
We are responsible for each other and have no choice.
All that we have become we have done to each other,
Our obligations lie deeper than marriage,
And we can never discharge them.
Therefore be responsible for me as I am for you,
And let us be pitiless to each other at last.
Taking up our clothes and going out into the street
Naked to the world, the comfortable life falling
Around us, the towers of Ilium topple into the harbour,
The streets are burning on the other side of the windscreen,
The raindrops splinter like cracked glass in a car accident,
The casualties lie about on the road in the cold rain.
‘There is no transience in love,' I said, ‘and you will be with me,
And I with you, until we can't remember anymore.'
We come to Central Station and I must not look back,
Like Lot's wife the pillar of salt engulfs me.
Footsteps of twenty years echo on the concrete platform.
When I stood at the end of the road I turned,
And the square was empty as if it had never been,
Only the man in the dream who always walked away,
The promise that thunders over the amplifiers
In a half forgotten language ... it is only the guard calling,
‘All trains for all stations, all trains' ... on a windy night.
But do not answer this, there is no answer,
That can ever give you back, this is the end of it.
It was some kind of grand illusion that we shared
There on a bed in Sydney in the spring.
It's autumn now, the leaves lie thick as letters.
I am surrounded, like a matriarch, with children,
None of them yours, not knowing if that's cause
For some regret or celebration.
I will never know so much about you now.
Only the basic truth I always knew.
You are incapable of love and daring,
Clothed always as the fatal compromiser,
The windfall apple, sour and late for eating.
I will never know where you have gone,
Or in what country you lay down your head,
Where you are drunk, or with what woman you are lying.
You carry your suitcase in New York or Copenhagen,
The guard is always calling, ‘All trains,' on a rainy night.
There is no place in all this world of corners
Where we can meet now, no door can open, no telephone reply,
No letter can be sent, no letter answered.
Yet you will have me as you always did,
An uncorrupt, imprisoned, fleshless thing.
But who will pity me, the strong, the weak,
Who wins in the end, who is responsible
For laying ghosts? Kind men dig graves so deep.
I have one gift, your brutal card for Christmas,
Crying, ‘Take pity, this is what I have,'
Wishing me well, signed by your wife and children.
That night in Sydney the wheel, coming full circle, broke me.
I have been hanging ever since between the spokes of an old crutch,
Broken-legged, jumping over puddles and contradictions.
Lies and half-truths, contradictions and evasions, this is my life,
Whose pride was all in truth, and having lost it limp like Lazarus.
So many deaths, do we never come to the end of it, shedding our skins,
And trembling out to dry on the twig of the world, to sing like a Green Monday,
On a spring morning, whirring for twenty-four hours in the black Manly pines.
All goes unanswered, love is unanswered, out of the dark
A tongue without speech, a hand without touch, a crude potter's thumb,
Grooves us a moment, the Esperanto of sense
Jabbers our language, all that we hold in common.
Yet wings make grubs articulate, cocoons are spun for shattering,
And though you keep your hand over my mouth,
I will keep on singing, dry cicada under the spring.

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