Her life’s been rather disappointing
In a way, and lonely. I suppose
That’s why Robert likes to have her here
At Christmas, with her knitting, and those old
Pink mules she’s had for years. Funny
How she never married – still, she must
Be used to that by now – like those women
You read about in Barbara Pym,
Taking books and ovaltine to bed
And dreaming chastely of the vicar …

I never even saw him in his coffin …
I couldn’t bear to meet his friends and relatives,
Be quiet in the background, smile condolences …

We loved each other, and the price I have to pay
For our deception is this loneliness …
I had no life apart from him …

She didn’t come this year. I wrote
To ask her – I don’t think Robert’s death
Should stop us being friends. It’s odd;
I would have thought she’d want to join
In normal family life – the turkey
And the crackers – you know, be part
Of things – as far as spinsters ever
Can. I suppose that Robert dying
Came as something of a shock –
Secretaries don’t like change …

He’d been dead two days before I heard …
A message on the ansaphone that Monday morning –

His wife told how the ambulance had come too late …
It was the call I’d dreaded all these years …
He loved me, and I lived for him … I know
The kind of thing they’ll all be saying now …

Poor silly Joan – we should have guessed …
She must have misinterpreted
His kindness as her boss … These things
Do happen … the archetypal spinster …
His wife’s been very understanding in the circs …


©Virginia Rounding, 1992

First published in Iota 26, May 1994

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