Poems by Edward O’Dwyer
Edward O’Dwyer is poetry and fiction writer from Ireland. His poetry collection The Rain on Cruise’s Street (Salmon Poetry, 2014) was Highly Commended in the Forward Prizes. The follow-up, Bad News, Good News, Bad News (Salmon Poetry, 2017) contains the Eigse Michael Hartnett award-winning poem ‘The Whole History of Dancing’. The collection of very short stories, Cheat Sheets (Truth Serum Press) is his current book, which Donal Ryan describes as “wicked little gems” and Tanya Farrelly compares “to Woody Allen at his best” and included it in The Lonely Crowd journal’s ‘Best Books of 2018’ list. A third poetry collection, Exquisite Prisons, is due from Salmon Poetry in Spring 2020. He has recently completed a sequel to Cheat Sheets, entitled The Art of Infidelity. He is currently attempting to write a first novel.
I discovered my wife was having an affair with the milkman. I came home on my lunch break to collect some papers I’d left behind me that morning, only to find them naked in the living room. He stood up and I burst out laughing. I didn’t mean to seem as though I wasn’t taking the situation very seriously, it’s just that I couldn’t help noticing that he looked just like a milk bottle himself. He was frightfully pale. Even his hair looked like a dollop of wispy fresh cream. I’d never met or seen him before, and my wife had never mentioned he was an albino. Only for the extraordinarily white penis sticking up, he was basically a man-sized version of the little bottles that arrive on the doorstep every morning.
I’ve always been a sensitive type – bookish, many have put it – so it came as no surprise to anyone when I penned a book of poetry. My verses were, for the most part, accounts of my most intimate moments.
“As poignant as they are fearless,” my publisher said of the poems, and hailed what she described as their “unflinching desire to pick apart the most unpicked apart minutiae of love and lust.” I was so pleased they’d connected with the book so, and that they wished to print it and sell it around the world.
I dedicated the book to my wife and girlfriend. Caught up in the joys of publication, I failed to realise that they might discover the other’s existence this way. I’d simply wanted to give each of them due credit.
It wouldn’t have seemed right to acknowledge only one, and thereby to discredit the other. They’d equally inspired the volume, after all. The bodies in its pages were mine and theirs. Fair is fair.
My wife quickly divorced me and my girlfriend dumped me, and the reviews of the book have been rather unanimous in condemning my behaviour.
“Confessional Poetry Has Never Been More Confessional,” one of the headlines in an esteemed magazine read.
In so doing, however, I’m quite sure they’ve made the book an international bestseller. I’ve been raking in the cash because of them. It seems that every week it exists in another language. This week it was Swahili, while next week it will be hitting the shelves in Belarusian.
There’s been a pronounced streak of nihilism in my personality for as long as I can remember. All the puberty-awakening girls of my youth were just so enamoured by my broody, world-is-ending-so-I-couldn’t-give-a-flying-fuck attitude, and so I honed it, used it to my gain at every turn.
Years later, I accused my wife of being rigidly faithful to me purely on the basis that, according to today’s conventions, I would be considered rather appealing and attractive.
“You wouldn’t be so loving and devoted if I were obese and hideous, would you?” I hissed at her.
“Actually, I believe I would, but I guess we’ll never know, will we, since you are such a looker?” she answered plainly, and carried on chopping carrots for a casserole.
For months I consumed huge heaps of fatty foods, during which time I abandoned all of my extraordinarily painstaking hygiene and cosmetic practices. I took every opportunity to belch and fart in front of her.
“I bet you think about hooking up with other men all the time now, don’t you?” I sneered one evening across the table, refusing to be taken for a fool by the candlelit dinner she had prepared for our anniversary.
“No, never,” she said. “Despite your best efforts, and the fact that every other woman in the world would probably think you are a disgusting mess, to me you’re still every bit as much the hunk I married, and I really couldn’t ever desire anyone else.”
This laying waste to my health and image went on for several more years and, against the odds, she seemed to remain very much in love, her dedication faultless. I started to feel terrible for having put her through it all, and decided I’d do so no more. She deserved better.
“I’m leaving you,” I announced in my most callous tone. “I’ve met somebody else, you see, and we want to be together. She enjoys interpreting my underarm sweat patches as though they were abstract art pieces, and she insists upon using my naval as a bowl for her M&Ms when we watch a movie. You just can’t compete with that, so you’ll have to find somebody else.”
“She’s a very lucky woman,” was the last thing she said as I waddled towards the door and adjusted myself to fit through the frame. The sincerity in her voice squeezed at my heart as I left her there. After all I’d put her through, she still meant those words with each and every fibre of her being.
© Edward O’Dwyer