I know you think me insincere –
how everyone I’ve ever known whose name I didn’t know
I’ve called darling, how you always told me to kill all my darlings.
Darling, I learned my lesson from the greengrocer
and the brown bag of Granny Smiths he parcelled with a twisty flourish
of little-eared corners, spinning the paper-enclosed green globes,
calling me darling, how – despite the long line of customers,
all of us darlings, all of us potentially desirable despite our anonymity,
despite this long line of affectionate terms – my heart flipped
like a little-eared corner of a paper bag when he unaddressed me as darling,
only to burst through the paper-thin hope of connection
and roll away past the post office, past the sweet shop,
on towards the little patch of concrete confettied with wood chips,
scattered for anyone who might fall from the swing.
Darling, that swing,
do you remember how we once sat facing each other, our legs
looping around and over, a crab-like beast
with eyes on each other’s stalks.
Do you remember darling,
how we recited lines from The Tempest, my favourite play,
and although I was intent on playing Ariel to your Prospero, I was more
Trinculo to your Caliban, hiding under a gaberdine, sheltering
from the rain which fell like little darlings
on some monster of the isle with four legs.
Darling is only uttered once in the play by Prospero:
And his and mine loved darling.
A double darling, doubly desired,
and yes, my darling, there is something daring
in regretting calling you darling, only to do it over and over
as we forget who we are and what we meant to each other –
only recalling that our bite of apple was never bitter.
Darling, can I call you darling?
LISA KELLY’s first collection, A Map Towards Fluency, was published by Carcanet in June. Her pamphlets are Philip Levine’s Good Ear (Stonewood Press) and Bloodhound (Hearing Eye). She is Chair of Magma Poetry.