Tuesday Poem

The Belly Dancer

Across the road the decorators have finished;
your flat has net curtains again
after all these weeks, and a ‘To Let’ sign.

I can only think of it as a tomb,
excavated, in the end, by
explorers in facemasks and protective spacesuits.

No papers, no bank account, no next of kin;
only a barricade against the landlord,
and the police at our doors, early, with questions.

What did we know? Not much: a Lebanese name,
a soft English voice; chats in the street
in your confiding phase; the dancing.

You sat behind me once at midnight Mass.
You were Orthodox, really; church
made you think of your mother, and cry.

From belly dancer to recluse, the years
and the stealthy ballooning of your outline,
kilo by kilo, abducted you.

Poor girl, I keep saying; poor girl –
no girl, but young enough to be my daughter.
I called at your building once, canvassing;

your face loomed in the hallway and, forgetting
whether or not we were social kissers,
I bounced my lips on it. It seemed we were not.

They’ve even replaced your window frames. I still
imagine a midden of flesh, and that smell
you read about in reports of earthquakes.

They say there was a heart beside your doorbell
upstairs. They say all sorts. They would –
who’s to argue? I don’t regret the kiss.

by Fleur Adcock
from Glass Wings
publisher: Bloodaxe, Newcastle, 2013