I wouldn’t call it a honeymoon,
those muffled nights in mothballed rooms.
With cake in the boot we pilgrimmed north,
taking a young marriage to old widows,
my father’s brothers dead,
their crucifixes still hanging.
In each house we were given the double bed,
my aunties inviting us to fornicate
on concave mattresses containing dead men’s
seed. Had we come one week before,
you would have been given nothing
but dusty blankets on a downstairs floor,
and I would have sunk, alone and deep,
into the mildewed sponge of a cousin’s bed.
My aunties would have spread
as wide as angels in their marital sheets,
their doors ajar, the solemn whispers
of their night-time prayers beating
as sweet as deathbed love-making.
But our wedding vows were said,
so we sipped tea on upright chairs
still dimpled with Brylcreemed heads,
and rolled like screws in side-ways jars
on shelves in locked-up sheds.
one son, one daughter later,
Jesus has been sent to us.
(The aunts are gone, their houses stripped)
His legs are broken (long marriages skipped,
thrown into landfill) and we laugh
when our little children ask about our honeymoon.
I see you dreaming down our garden path
as you hold the broken body in your hands.
He was nailed to the Anaglypta.
You are picturing the twist of wire you’ll use to bind his legs,
the nail, the hammer, the spirit level, the pencil
mark the place he’ll eternally outstare us.
I love the way our daughter sings
as her finger traces our wedding rings.
(This poem was a runner up in the 2010 Bridport Prize, judged by Michael Laskey, and is published in The Bridport Prize Winners Anthology 2010. To hear Josephine Corcoran reading ‘Honeymoon’ click here).
Josephine Corcoran set up And Other Poems in August 2012. She wrote about being a finalist at Bridport here.