Things get away from one.
I’ve let myself go, I know.
Children? I’ve had three
and don’t even know them.
I strain to remember a time
when my body felt lighter.
Years. My face is swollen
with regrets. I put powder on,
but it flakes off. I love him,
through habit., but the proof
has evaporated. He gets upset.
I tried to do all the essentials
on one trip. Foolish, yes,
but I was weepy all morning.
Quiche. A blond boy swung me up
in his arms and promised the earth.
You see this came back to me
as I stood on the scales.
I wept. Shallots. In the window
creamy ladies held a pose
which left me clogged and old.
The waste. I forgotten my purse,
fumbled; the shopgirl gaped at me
compassionless. Claret. I blushed.
Cheese. Kleenex. It did happen.
I lay in my slip on wet grass,
laughing. Years. I had to rush out,
blind in a hot flush and bumped
into an anxious, dowdy matron
who touched the cold mirror
and stared at me. Stared
and said I’m sorry sorry sorry.
Carol Ann Duffy (1955 –
from her Selected Poems book
S1, S2 – This is a lady talking, seemingly a lady of that age where her children have left home and leading their own lives and a lady that unfortunately has let things go a little regarding her body and weight. She reflects back to the time when she was lighter and this appears painful for the word strain is used. Her weight problem may have affected her face or it is just painful to accept what has happened to her over time. She is in the process of coming to terms with the situation and hence the title recognition.
S3 – She can’t change of hide the situation with powder on the face. This is merely a superficial way of dealing with the change. She still loves her partner out of duty and it appears that sex is no longer happening – the proof has evaporated.
S4 – This is the start of a shopping sequence. Shopping is a dominant female duty in providing for the household and getting all the essentials can be regarded as a metaphor for life’s journey for she realises that she hasn’t got everything right on her journey and she is crying. Quiche is chosen against the thought of her partner’s unrealistic promise at the start of their relationship – a foreign word.
S5 – She may have weighed herself early in the morning before going shopping and this has caused her thoughts to go back to her slim figure of her younger years and generate tears. Shallots are chosen; well she could have chosen onions. She may have seen mannequins in a shop window (creamy ladies) and this has accentuated the difference when comparing the ideal with that of her own figure.
S6 – And then her predicament at the check-out when she can’t find her purse and the shopgirl shows no sympathy. Claret is such an appropriate item considering her blushing state.
S7 – Cheese for a smile and Kleenex for a tear. And that strong statement to herself that ‘it did happen’ (italics to give emphasis)– yes, she was happy once remembering a certain sexual instance Nice balance with the lack of sex in stanza three..
S8 – She rushes out of the shop. It is also menopause time. But she can’t escape who she is now and gives recognition to this fact in terms of – an anxious, dowdy matron – and she is so regretful saying sorry sorry sorry.
It is change of life time. The big question is – will she change her way of life and recover in some way and be more disciplined in the way she looks after her body. And having recognised the reality of where she is now will she forgive the past and look to a happier future. Is this going to be a turn around point in her life?
Carol Ann Duffy is the current Poet Laureate (since 2009 replacing Andrew Motion)
Footnote … I participate in Parkrun and it is encouraging to see a number of over weight women starting to get back into exercise … walking is quite permisable … a free weekly event on a Saturday morning.