chance meeting with a retro muse


it was a year or so since I saw Oonagh
there had been other muses
but she was, still is,
my non plus ultra.
she was the heart of many works with
a dozen names in a dozen guises
I often wondered if she realised
how much she figured in my writing.
I told Oonagh I loved her dearly,
‘I love you too, but brotherly.’
our only date?
a theatre night watching
a mutual favourite – Macbeth.
she wore a green velvet dress,
and a necklace of Whitby jet.
sitting beside her
I glowed, entranced,
not even daring
to brush her hand.
my one-way ‘love’ was unsustainable,  
its sudden end predictable.
no one was to blame,
how can souls combine?
that takes a miracle –
and there’s never a shaman
around when you need one.
I burned the love letters
too passionate to post
and books of notes about her
tears washed the coils of smoke
from my eyes as I poked
into the flames, watching
all that remained of
my obsession slowly
turn to charcoal ash.
Oonagh reduced to  
a ghost from my past.
but then I glimpsed her
sitting on my bus.
she turned her face away,
intently window-gazing,
playing the ‘I didn’t see you’ game.
at the terminus
she looked much smaller
she looked much older
she looked much frailer
her face much sadder 
than I remembered.
‘hello, Oonagh, you’re looking well.’
 ‘thank you. I got your book you sent me.’
‘you’re Rita in the opener.’
‘I figured that. the book’s quite good…’
‘thanks a lot. I’m glad you like it.’
‘… at least it’s better than your others.’
a long pause.
peck on the cheek?
open old sores?
or walk away?
I reached out a hand.
she walked away.

© coolhermit 2023
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critique and comments welcome.
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You paint a picture of unrequited love in words with this sad but excellent poem.


I’m working on that 😉

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