This is one of several poems that P.J.Kavanagh (1931-2015) wrote in memory of his first wife Sally, who died tragically young two years into their marriage. He commemorates her in his partial autobiography ‘The Perfect Stranger’, a book which like this poem manages to be both grounded and luminous.
Perfection isn’t like a perfect story
I think often of the time I was perfectly happy,
And sat by the harbour reading a borrowed Cavafy.
You were there of course and the night before we
Played bar billiards, green under lights, in the café,
Postponing our first shared bedtime and every ball
That didn’t come back made us look at each other and down.
I collected the key and we crossed the late-night hall
And seeing the room you cried, it was so small.
We were too close. We bore each other down.
I changed the room and we found that you were ill.
Nothing was perfect, or as it should have been.
I lay by your side and watched the green of dawn
Climb over our bodies and bring out of darkness the one
Perfect face that made nothing else matter at all.