As a young man I stole a heart-shaped locket
From an old woman’s shelf.
My hand just swept it off and into a pocket
As if I were someone else.
Now, as then, I don’t know why I did it.
Because it was there, I guess,
And because I’d decided her grandson was an idiot
Whose friendship made me embarrassed.
It was silver and cold. It opened, and in it
Was a lock of grey hair
Which turned me into a grave-robber for a minute.
I wished it wasn’t there.
The dreams that came to get me, you wouldn’t believe:
First I’m shot like a pheasant;
Next, my side is slit by the terrible scythe
Of the grey moon’s crescent.
I hide it in the loft, the wall, the wainscot.
It roves rather than rests,
Like the core matter of a contested conscience,
My secreted priest.
Years go by and my own heart gets nicked –
Just when I think I’ve got her.
Tricksy old love and his haul of stolen tickers
Hung in his hideous abattoir.
I get shot of the locket. Decent price
From an old Brighton associate;
Shut myself from the will to turn out nice
Or, God help us, expiate.
Strange to say, he never opens the piece;
Just puts it on the scales.
The lock must add point-something of an ounce
To the weight of the sale.
All right then dreams, I say, so give me hell
And, scared half to death,
I’m barely feeding into my new love’s shell-like
A single curl of breath.
To all who find in my chest an empty hole
That should be heavy-hearted
I say go estimate the weight of the soul
That parts from the departed.