Problem Page

She drops endearments in his mouth
like small placebos, minting her breath
to stop the penny dropping. He suspects
only fidelity, the duff currency
of magazines with cardigans, kitchens.

He reads her the problem pages
in squeaky contralto (for the supplicant)
or a tremor (the expert), swatting the air
with derisive gestures. She clasps
her cocoa so it scalds her palms.

Once a month, he tests the oil.
She's shown beneath his bonnet, frisked
for a minute on the niceties
of maintenance. The pressure gauge
heats in her pinking fingers.

On the way to the shops, she stops,
rehearses the evening, an understudy
responding to careless prompts.
Her lover is almost speechless when
she tests his confessional bed.

From the book Looks Familiar