The Barbecue

My soon-to-be fourth wife
is preparing for our first barbecue,
while my third wife
is taking out and packing books
she’d interwoven with mine
in alphabetical order.

Why is there always so much confusion?
My fourth wife is saying she brought twelve steak knives
from Canada, but now there are only nine.
I was hoping a certain poetry book
was mine, not my third wife’s. I think
the barbecue tongs we will be using
are really hers.

I wish my third wife could stay for the barbecue
but my fourth wife would object,
and maybe my third wife would too.
I wish my first wife’s second husband
would let her come to the barbecue,
and bring himself. My fourth wife
would be fine with that. Why are people
so unreasonable? I wish my second wife
wasn’t dead, but could come too.
But then she wouldn’t be happy with my third wife,
and my first wife not happy with my second.
I know my first wife would like my fourth wife.
Many hands make light work,
and I’m hopeless at this kind of thing—
getting the charcoal to light and
cooking chops, sausages and stuff.

from Flight and Smoke (Francis Boutle, 2010), © D M Thomas 2010, used by permission of the author

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1from The White Hotel

2Three Sisters - Poland 1941


4from Snapshots

5The Half-Rhyme




9The Puberty Tree

10Latin Class


12Poetry and Striptease

13Blizzard Song

14Friday Evening

15For Doll Pentreath

16from Meditation on Lines from the Methodist Hymnal




20The Handkerchief or Ghost Tree.

21Coitus Interruptus

22Easter Reading

23Since You Came

24The Barbecue



27A Cornish Woman in Zurich

28Schrodinger’s Cat