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2 poems by Guy Elston

The Awful Truth of How Sweet Life Can Be

Helen and Chris are married

and they live in a terraced house

on the seafront, though their view,

being South-facing, is not of the sea

but of the detached Edwardian

house over the fence. Every Friday night

they spend at the Wild Rose,

a ‘charming independent with a cool

interior and reconditioned furniture’,

overlarge cocktail glasses

and album covers on the walls.

Friday is live music night, and Helen

and Chris get there early to be sure

to have a table, where they will sit

until closing time, Chris drinking two pints

to Helen’s every double gin and tonic.

They watch the act, typically a two-piece

of local youngsters belting classics,

raptly and clap after every song.

Few words will pass between them

except to praise the band.

They also watch other people;

old sods, cheeky mums, lads bawling;

Helen will smile at the sight of a girl

being spun and picked up so high

her knickers show, Chris will shake

a rueful grin as a long-haired lifetime

scally stumbles on his way to the bar.

They watch it all attentively and seem

grateful to be there, to contribute

in their own small way to the fun.

When the big lights come on they nod

and smile to the regulars they nod and smile

to weekly, and thank the bar staff,

and on a lucky night the band outside smoking,

and walk the ten minutes home. Does Chris

put his jacket over Helen’s shoulders

and tell her she’s his world? Does Helen

grab her husband suddenly and wrap

her hands over his bald head and kiss him

under streetlight? Do they say anything at all?

Maybe these things, or maybe others;

for there is so much we cannot know

about Helen and Chris.

The Reprise

Miss Chislehurst, as she had been

when she taught at Caldy Primary,

has spent her whole life in this parish.

‘Why would you ever leave’ she asks

as she waters her kaleidoscope

of potted plants on the kerbside.

She became Mrs Westerfield in the sixties

but was soon recast as Ms; ‘a philanderer,

Les’ notes Charlie, long-time president

of the Neighbourhood Resident Association,

as he sweeps gravel around on tarmac.

At fifty she came into her next name,

Mrs Barrington, though she is long-separated

from the man who gave it to her; ‘an alcoholic’

she comments as if upon the weather,

‘as so many men are at that age.’

He died in sheltered accommodation.

‘Perhaps the selection process wasn’t quite

what it could have been’ grins Charlie

with a glance at Number 20. ‘Oh, don’t worry

about Charlie,’ she smiles, ‘I keep him in check.’

She spends a summer day sitting amongst

her flowers and talking to whoever passes by,

some of whom still know her as Miss Chislehurst,

their first teacher. ‘All the boys turned

out alright’ she proudly claims, and offers

gin and tonic, and introduces herself

as who she started as in 1936; Marjorie.


Guy Elston is currently studying a History MA at the University of Amsterdam. In 2019 his poetry has been included in Sarasvati, Burning House Press and Writer's Block Magazine.


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