What do women want?

by John Boland

Everyone says you’re the perfect couple.

The rest of us get by after a fashion,
muddling through marriages not made in heaven,
each day unmade by an unkind gesture,
slighting children, and lies that bind
into the years that yawn ahead.

But yours was the one that worked,
and still reproaches us for all we’re not.
You holiday abroad to interesting cities,
take weekends in the country when you can,
your bags well stocked with books and compact discs.
At home you’re wise enough to know
that privacy’s the other side of sharing,
and long since learned that space is freedom.
And though his friends need not be yours,
you like them all (well, not that auctioneer)
and give dinners that are much admired.
Often in bed you both have urgencies;
no problems there. Really, we should hate you.

But we don’t. No-one’s ever said a bad word
about him, and you’re a friend to us all.
Hard, then, to imagine why you choose
three times each month, more if you can,
to go to a room at the top of a stairs
in a house of flats, frayed carpet, faded chairs,
take off your clothes and straddle a man
none of us ever liked. Asked by an anxious friend,
you called it love; to us it’s a betrayal.

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