The cistern groans under a new pressure.
Little-known taps are being turned on
in obscure regions of the palace,
cutting off the water for his tea.
Jim forwards her mail to the garden, laughing
because he has hidden the marmalade.

At nine, they both stay home and do nothing,
out of work. The ring in the bath and the
hacked loaf prove he is on the track
of his elusive wife. Her movements displace
the usual volume of elegant soft porn: face-
creams and cigarettes. Now Jim has razor-burn.

By the end of the afternoon he will have taken
a thousand pairs of sex-oriented shoes
back to her dressing-room. Jim swears
he can still see the funny side of life
in a half-way house where even the shoes
exist in limbo and the hand-rail is loose.

He puts his ear to the door of the study,
rushes in, sees the back of his head.
This is where he sits alone, in coffee-shock,
making lists of women. Photos of his wife
line the walls, reminding him of her.
The cupboard is open. He can’t decide what to wear.

Jim thinks there are two houses here,
each one overlapping the other, like towels,
the common stairs acting as a kind of hinge
for correct and incorrect behaviour. He stands
for hours on end, rolling his eyes
in soapy water dreams, unable to go up or down.

When the front door bangs, he imagines his wife
has gone out and runs upstairs to look at
her clothes. Blocked by this morning’s tray,
he comes back down again, asking himself
whether the hall is part of the original house
or something to do with the street.

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