She can’t remember why she started
recording their FaceTime calls.
Now, when she’s lonely, she scrolls through
this small library of conversations
and chooses one.
It took a whole February weekend
to transcribe and learn her lines
before editing out the sound of her own voice.
Hey, he says. How’s it going?
In no particular order, she misses:
his eyebrows; the way he nods when he doesn’t quite agree;
how he pulls the left-behind bits of paper
from the coiled spine of his notebook
and wraps them around his fingertip.
Her favourite is the one where they read to each other –
he picks the same three poems for her, in the same order each time.
She watches him,
follows the rills and hollows of his voice,
the familiar landscape of the words,
and always brings him something new
that will fit exactly into the time she has left.
The need to find a remembered story, a half-forgotten sonnet, starts dragging her
from sleep in the early hours. Combing through shelf after shelf
in her dressing gown, to be ready for the moment
he turns his book face down and looks up.
He blinks and listens, closes his eyes
and she feels his attention deepen.
She keeps going. Never, not once, does she stop
and break the spell. His steady breathing. Her own heart beating.
I’m good, she says. How about you?
Claire Allen’s poems have appeared in The Reader Magazine and Flambard Poetry Prize Anthology and been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. Claire’s 2020 novel, The Blackbird, was published by Henningham Family Press. The Mountain of Light and Protection were published by Headline Review