Four Poems by Angela Readman

The Astronaut’s Mistress

I saw your children bounce through the cemetery,
a grasp of plastic wands, faces to stone cherubim.
They blew bubbles, then took off, leaving me colours
following me home. I walked back, made a sandwich,
opened mayo to think of you suddenly (I read, end to end,
the empty jars of the world’s salad would reach space.)
I vacuumed, ate, squeezed a world of ordinary things
into the tube of an hour, and came out the other side
still, without a book or a ladder in a stocking long enough
to get me over you. Your absence was omnipotent, you
were every/no/where. Night came to feed me a pill of moon
from its cup. I couldn’t close a curtain, eyes akimbo,
mouth open, I waited. Sometimes stars threw me crumbs.

The Astronaut’s Mistress Wears a Fishbowl

When you were gone my mission wasn’t newsworthy
- learning to inhale without your smell on the sheets,
exhale without the barometer of a neck. Your absence
rotated my day in phases. Imagining how you’d look at me
again was a tide dragging me through night to launch me
into the middle of another day. I fed the fish and tried on a visor,
a magnifying glass for the crater of my face.(Have I aged?)
I saw myself through an astronaut’s gaze, a dot of a woman
on earth’s jigsaw of scattered continents, puzzling walls.
I looked up, the moon shed feathers of cloud. I saw it
in the mirror, that moon performing a striptease,
glimpses of the face of the girl you left behind.

The Astronaut Returns with a Souvenir
(A Freeze-dried Ice-cream Sandwich)

After the parade he guards a window, a shudder of banners
at the shoulder blades, silhouette a shadow of a suit in a glass case.
His bite of the moon is halved by bleached teeth, a lozenge
dissolving behind his lips. He cheats when I’m in the room,
eyes all moon, that bitch who gave him the eye as a boy, threw
pebbles at his window when his interest waned. No woman
can compare, groom a man to fit the suit she needs him to wear.
An astronaut’s mistress can’t claim to get how he feels,
tell him, I too, have looked down on us from a great height.
All I can do is reach across silence, an oxygen cable stretched
between us, size my fingertips to rain trickling down
to his lowest point to fill holes smuggled home in his bones.
I let moonlight paint me to the bone, core exposed as an apple,
waist, hips, shaped by the bite of love with no appetite.
I lay my nakedness on the table and wait for its flash of morse,
a long hand of veins, to say fewer men have been here than space.

The Astronauts We Become

Even as we touch, or because we must, we are lonely.
Astronauts first and always, one eye out, looking up.
The moon’s tarnished medal pins to our chests, all thumbs.
You look at me with an astronaut’s gaze, can’t shake it.
Me neither. With no visor, I’m deafened by this sound
of my own saliva, the need of my tongue in orbit of an ear.
It is painful, terrestrial, to be half of two people, give
to wax and wane, try to say things to make out who is who.
You tell me I mean the world to him- what does it mean?
Up there, the world popped, we were equal, all no one,
faces painted in sea. Yes, we fidget with the gravity of hands,
reach for weightlessness however we can. So I lie beside you,
let levity’s meteorites fall from my mouth, I tell you
how many stacked jars of Hellman’s, soda cans, suitcases,
newspapers, Oreos, communion wafers could of touched you,
how much of anything it takes to reach the moon and back.

Angela Readman’s poetry has won The Essex Poetry Competition, been commended in The Arvon International Poetry Compeition and a finalist of Mslexia. Her work has been published by Salt and in Frida Hughes column in The Times. She also writes little stories.