Howls & Whispers
What was poured in your ears
While you argued with death?
Your mother wrote: 'Hit him in the purse.'
Reiterated it, like Iago,
'Hit him in the purse.' Her joy
That you were at last ridding yourself
Of this bacterium, whose evil fever
Had aborted your pedigree career -
The marriage she had prepared you for.
After the event I found her letters.
I felt the gratification of her fury.
'Hit him in the purse,' and 'Be strong
To free yourself: go straight for divorce.'
And from your analyst: 'Keep him out of your bed.
Above all, keep him out of your bed.'
You left me those letters, those war-banners
You had waved in my face.
These were your Intelligence Corps
In our efforts to hear each other.
These were our only Marriage Guidance Council.
Thunderheads of static experience
Unloading into your ear, to waken and jam it.
Then through that last week, the go-between
Doing her best, with the tape-recorder
Under her tongue, the confidante
On all sides, that double spy,
The manquèe journalist, the professional dopester,
Who had to prove that only she
Knew the facts and the latest - bringing you
In huge dishes of dark eyes
Garblings of what I was said to have said,
Was said to have done. She squatted at your ear.
She was the bug in my bed.
Pretty, innocent-eyed, gleeful Iago.
And her friends, the step-up transformers
Of your supercharged, smoking circuits,
What did they plug into your ears
That had killed you by daylight on Monday?
These were the marks that measured out the voltage
That they wired so tenderly
With placebo anaesthetic
Into your ear, and that killed you
Even as you screamed it at me.
- Ted Hughes (from 'Howls & Whispers,' Collected Poems)