The reflection in the mirror
Turned her stomach. A scrap of paper,
As if stuck to the glass—
She could reach to peel it,
But felt nails clinking on the hard surface.
Tantalisingly beyond reach.
Even in backward mirror-script,
She could sense its stomach-turning.
Man came into the bathroom, a stolid individual—a fireman
Of the first water, with brylcreemed hair.
The marriage had indeed been a series of fire-fighting.
The odd burst of flame from a once moribund fire in the old days' coal-grate. The sudden ignition of a garden bonfire after hope had been given up of it ever catching. The chimney fire streaming smoke and setting all the local kids a-goggling—as they ceased, momentarily, their game of hopscotch or hide-and-seek. The conflagration that beset a local factory—a memory from childhood that would remain beyond the reach even of the final fire of all: a seething furnace which nothing at all could douse.
The marriage and more.
Now old, the man still retained
Deep respect for anything untoward.
Alert for any emergency. Lack of imagination
Prevented him being scared of anything.
Sanity was his watchword.
Approaching the mirror,
Devastated to see the reflection
Of a woman's face—blushing
To the roots.
He no longer had stomach for it.
Wife cremated only yesterday;
Not even left a suicide note.
(published 'Edgar' 1999)