I was told the bones of this dark story by a visitor to a friend’s café in mid-Wales, where I was sitting, trying to write. The poem won second prize in The Plough Competition 2011.
She remembers the last time he was home,
how she watched him in tousled sleep,
how his hand grasped the rumpled blankets,
knuckles white against her neat stitched edges.
She turns her head sharply to catch him
walking past the window in his work jacket,
though she knows it still hangs on the door.
She breathes him in, her brow to its rough wool.
The neighbours say she’s not been right
since the telegram; she sees their nets move
as she pulls the door to and walks down the path,
the candle flame cupped by her hand.
The small light casts backward shadows.
In the tŷ bach, he winks from a scrap of mirror
his chin covered in shaving soap,
before shrugging on khaki and sinking in mud.
Wind blows his name through the lost knots.
The candle reaches out to a square of newspaper
threaded on a string from the nail he put up.
She sees how the flames embroider the door.