YOU by Barry Tebb
“Remember, you loved me, when we were young, one day”
The words of the song in Tauber’s mellifluous tenor
Haunt my nights and days, make me tremble when I hear
Your voice on the phone, sadden me when I can’t make into your smile
The pucker of your lips, the gleam in your eye.
The day we met is with me still, you asked directions
And on the way we chatted. You told me how you’d left
Lancashire for Leeds, went to the same TC as me, even liked poetry
Both were looking for an ‘interesting evening class’
Instead we found each other.
You took me back for tea to the flat in Headingley
You shared with two other girls. The class in Moortown
Was a disaster. Walking home in the rain I put my arm
Around you and you did not resist, we shared your umbrella
Then we kissed.
I liked the taste of your lips, the tingle of your fingertips,
Your mild perfume. When a sudden gust blew your umbrella inside out
We sheltered underneath a cobbled arch, a rainy arch, a rainbow arch.
“I’m sorry”, you said about nothing in particular, perhaps the class
Gone wrong, the weather, I’ll never know but there were tears in your eyes
But perhaps it was just the rain. We kissed again and I felt
Your soft breasts and smelt the hair on your neck and I was lost to you
And you to me perhaps, I’ll never know.
We went to plays, I read my poems aloud in quiet places,
I met your mother and you met mine. We quarrelled over stupid things.
When my best friend seduced you I blamed him and envied him
And tried to console you when you cried a whole day through.
The next weekend I had the flu and insisted you came to look after me
In my newly-rented bungalow. Out of the blue I said, “What you did for him
You can do for me”. It was not the way our first and only love-making
Should have been, you guilty and regretful, me resentful and not tender.
When I woke I saw you in the half-light naked, curled and innocent
I truly loved you If I’d proposed you might have agreed, I’ll never know.
A month later you were pregnant and I was not the father.
I wanted to help you with the baby, wanted you to stay with me
So I could look after you and be there for the birth but your mind
Was set elsewhere end I was too immature to understand or care.
When I saw you again you had Sarah and I had Brenda, my wife-to-be;
Three decades of nightmare ahead with neither of our ‘adult children’
Quite right, both drink to excess and have been on wards.
Nor has your life been a total success, full-time teaching till you retired
Then Victim Support: where’s that sharp mind, that laughter and that passion?
And what have I to show?
A few pamphlets, a small ‘Selected’, a single good review.
Sat in South Kensington on the way to the Institut I wrote this,
Too frightened even to phone you.