Chris Rice: a poem



Referendum


I throw the ballpoint pen away.

She hits the carpet with her stick

and says she wants it back.

I offer her another one but, no,

she wants the one she's always used.


I check my watch and roll my eyes,

marvelling at her stubbornness,

her mad determination

to prove me wrong and make

ink flow again

when suddenly

I see a cross, a solitary crucifix,

topple from the dry nib of her pen.


"There, I've voted Leave", she says.

But I'm the one who's leaving,


spotting in her sidelong glance

the smile she used to aim at me

when spitting on a handkerchief

to wipe a smear of something

sticky from my squeezed-up face.


I check the panic in the glance

an old man tosses at me

from the mirror in the hall.

I shut the door and start the car

and travel streets

whose geography

I think I know by heart. I end up

taking nothing but wrong turns.



Chris Rice was a founder member of a London poetry group, The Pembridge Poets, in the the mid-1970s with Robert Greacen, Matthew Sweeney and Tim Dooley. In 2011, he started to write poetry again after a twenty-year silence. Since then, his work has been placed in many competitions and published widely in magazines and anthologies, most recently in the Poetry Review (Winter 2018/19), Orbis (as featured poet, January 2019), Obsessed with Pipework (November 2019, November 2020) and online at the London Magazine (October 2019, March 2020). The above poem first appeared in Ink, Sweat and Tears.