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“Breaking Up” in Soho by HLR

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

another strange night in purgatory

our faces torn between the heaven

of tipsy candlelight & the hell

of gaudy neon signs that curious

liminal state in which we existed

in love out of love somewhere

between agony & pain we were

really angry at each other for reasons

out of reach to me now I’d probably

done something stupid or had too many

feelings again that you couldn’t take

but the safety of our cloistered sanctuary

in this cosy little restaurant we had

never been to before & the warmth

& comfort afforded by the melting

wax pillar that stood coyly between us

as we sat in quiet contentment falling

silently into respect for each other again

our bellies full of risotto & steak & rioja

neither of us daring to say

anything to disrupt this

rare piece of peace

to make the first move to utter

I think we should call it a day

look this has been fun but

the rhythmic blinking of electric

signs on the other side of the window

the liquid letters in brash colours

screaming 18+ touting London’s finest

mags + dvds + toys + girls girls girls

& MASSAGE with a short-circuited M

the way the fluorescence fell on your face

(I could’ve screamed you looked like a saint)

dissipated my rage our rage it made us

wicked & in the mood for sabotage

but in a different way so we went to

a peep show instead & laughed our heads

right back & fucked on the night bus home

backseats top deck & you asked me to

marry you the next day & I said no

because I loved you so much

I told you that you deserved better

than me but now I’m not sure

if I really truly meant it

because in the end

you turned out

to be a prick.


HLR (she/her) is a prize-winning working-class poet from North London. She was commended in the National Poetry Competition 2021 and won the Desmond O'Grady International Poetry Competition 2021. She is the author of History of Present Complaint (longlisted in the Poetry Book Awards 2022) and EX-CETERA (forthcoming, Nine Pens, 2023). Find her on Twitter: @HLRwriter.


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