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Letter to the Man I Love
Polly Clark

This was first published in Oxford Poetry X.2 and appeared in the author's first collection Kiss (Bloodaxe, 2000), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for that summer. Raw rather than cooked, and with a little of the dramatic monologue about it, Letter isn't typical of Clark's poetry, but it's one of the most memorable pieces we have published.

When feeling cheated, remember
that you are loved
by the only one who didn't cry.
This may seem small consolation,
and perhaps you would prefer
that you were not loved by
someone of such monumental achievement.
Please, let me explain.
I have watched as people were stripped naked
and made to writhe on the floor.
I do not know them, nor
what they may have done to deserve this.
I have, however, invented names for them, and stories
about how much they enjoy it.
I have filled their mouths with lies,
and I have answered letters from the general public
as if I were them, repeating those lies.
I have written their confessions
which were totally untrue
and received payment for the forgery.
I have given, on request,
photos of them in various poses to friends
and even to my own father (who was delighted)
in order to make myself more popular (which it did).
I have, on social occasions, announced
that my varied tasks I find "liberating",
and on that basis have found myself,
on more than one occasion,
embodying those lies.
I have answered phone calls from the general public
who wish to know in exactly what way
I would like to be stripped
and pushed on the floor,
with scrupulous politeness,
following the company code that all callers are customers.

I have not, until now,
questioned out loud
the glaring fact that all these people
stripped and lied about
are not unlike myself, and that I
have written about them as if they were dogs or mice
because that is the only way
to lie about them convincingly.
Nor have I, until today,
when I couldn't stop crying,
realised the impossibility of love
with someone to whom
I have lied so much.