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Verge 2017 – Chimera


Love Letters Posing as an Epistolary Poem to my New Friend the Famous Poet

Susan Bradley Smith

1. Mad

Those photos. It had been one of the

organisational triumphs of my life to

create those albums of us, gloss and

matt, documents of the near and far

and seen and unseen. Unskilled and

frostbit from the scolding of your

goneness, I took them from the high

shelf and, watched by a stranger—

my new husband—I pulled every

second, every third, every fifth,

then every single panoramic lie

from its stuck place and cast them

upon the floor. Soon, I would try to

gather them and shark out their

histrionic demise, murder them,

replace them with ghosts from the

future. If I’d known what was to come,

would I have been so quick to trounce

history with melodrama? A bonfired

life, I say, explaining the past away.

Most disturbing: how pretty a pile

they made with their hypershine

and their denial of the grime of the times that spun and twisted us into

tinsel. Auditioning for Christmas

baubles, they were.

Hang me.

Dear David,

I didn’t know what to do. My first husband had been unhappy from the day he came to me in England. The first thing he did after arriving from Germany was lie down on my bedroom floor (I was sharing a house in Brompton with 4 girls, all of us freshly graduated and employed: me, a journalist; another, an Irish harpist for the London Symphony Orchestra; one beginning her Dutch diplomatic career; yet another, an engineer working on a highly mysterious project called The Chunnel; and my favourite, the podiatrist). He didn’t really move for about a week. And on the eve of our wedding he slept outside in the car. We married young, at 21, and had 15 years of blitzkrieg fun, despite his melancholia making us a threesome. I still miss him. Love you.

Susie x

2. Bad

These are the things that make me

foolish: basically, a long list that

spells ‘unevolved’; and a shorter

one that sings ‘fear’. Beyond

these accounts of failure there are

certain records of achievement

and (also) every so often, the world

does something crazy-good, like

supermoons or the evolutionary

frenzy of the northern lights and

who can argue with that kind of CV?

Blessings galore, yes, but (aside from

gratitude being a dullard’s sport) last

night my husband came home late

and drunk and I felt like worn out

velvet. Who doesn’t know by now

that before us stands yesterday?

Mostly, I felt a sure kind of stupidity.

I gripped my wedding ring, and

wondered at its weaponry, asking

myself softly if this was the best

metal I would know, all the time

wishing that you might kiss me

instead; buy me a pretty necklace

strong enough for strangling.

Dear David,

I never talk about my second marriage. I write about it, shamelessly, but conversation is too intimate a thing. Sometimes I conduct ‘Short Talks on Brevity’ trying to be honest but I largely lie. I blame precarious times for these rushed failures. I don’t do anything thoroughly enough anymore, like protesting in the streets or flossing my teeth, or telling my friends anything that matters. It takes too long! When bad things happen I don’t allow a proper soaking in disinfectant, I go for the swift wipe with an alcohol rub. Here’s an example of briskness I admire from Emily Tennyson’s grandmother: her complete diary entry for the day of her wedding, 20 May 1765: “Finished Antigone; married Bishop.” Easier to opt for delayed damage than take pause. At least I read. More than I marry. Why am I telling you this? Please write soon.

Susie x

3. Ugly/Truth

There are some things you should know about

me before we take this relationship any further:

I like clothes. I believe in God. And I’ve killed.

They called me soldier so I am forgiven. My past

is top secret. But God is not my boyfriend. He

is the schoolyard bully of the perjured life, and

knows all kinds of things about trees and ropes.

I hang

my laundry, stringing it out against the sky like

a young wife flapping stiffly on a bed, wired

and pegged for her first ECT. I smoke, admiring

my clothes, their stripes, their polka dots, their

paisley shouts, their hopeful cleanliness, so much

brighter without me inside them. Stinging with

sunshine, I leave them to their morning.


I will reinsert myself in them. I will take them

to Evensong, where I go each week to weep.

When we are wet, we need each other more

than ever. Afterwards, we’ll go shopping, and

then my clothes will cling to me, fearful of my

certain infidelity. My thwarted faith. Tell God,

I will scream at them. Or someone who cares.

Verge 2017 – Chimera

   by Bonnie Reid, Aisling Smith and Gavin Yates