SHE BE ME
When I arranged a meeting with my self
predictably she – as I’ll call her – turned up late.
I had sat an hour at a table and drained
three cups of coffee when she wafted in,
looking like me with a better haircut, younger,
with an insouciant air and the feeblest excuse.
The waiter I’d flirted with to no avail
as the place emptied was suddenly all smiles.
I offered her lunch as it was clear
she had no money, nor plan for the future
– none of which I myself had that much of
but at least I’d arrived on time, time being
what I had less of, which made her lateness
even worse. I could tell she didn’t know
what she wanted – to drink, to have, to be.
A vaguely startled look blurred her eyes
as if her confidence was just a bluff.
I could have told her that what lay ahead
would test a sturdier nerve than hers
but why waste words – she’d find out soon enough.
All the fool seemed utterly sure of
was never in her life would she be me.
--With acknowledgments to Jamie McKendrick.
Ruth Fainlight is one of Britain's most distinguished poets. Her most recent collection Somewhere Else Entirely (2018) was published by Bloodaxe Books. Alan Sillitoe: Selected Poems Chosen by Ruth Fainlight (2020) was published by Dare-Gale Press.