Why do you follow?

I tread their shadow,
Stranger and woman,
Arranging the season
In her curious dream.
And best announced
From my alphabet home,
consume their echo,
Cancel the sun.

Why do you leave me?

Of three there are figures
Whose third is unechoed
Where two are alone.
And I, her follower,
Fall back to forest,
Cancel the sun.

That she carries a bowl
And selects the red stones,
That her third is unechoed,
And closebred, a stranger,
That the thunder has broken
about the round tower, I allow
Allowing, not following,
By the animal fire.

Why do you stay with me?

The crooks of my fingers
Distribute the ash.
She, widowed; her third,
Her third is her lover.
She, widowed, unsighted,
Her third is her stranger.


Come. Our two walking,
And shadows beginning,
Sauntering altered, and
The autumn bereaving.
That her third was unechoed
I could hardly allow.
By his bearing I knew him,
And our silence making,
We turned through the pillars
Of dust that enticed.

So we crouched to begin.
I counted the thunder
That leaned at my temples
And crouched to begin.
On his nail was her eyelash,
That lined the calm.


That you did barter
And consort with her.
That you did ash
The fire at her departure.
That you did enter
Where I was unechoed.
That you did venture
Where I was a stranger.
That you did cajole

When the pendulum hung.
That you interposed
In her curious dream.
That you did instruct
From your alphabet home.
That you did confusion
Her eyelid to stone.
That you so did render
The echo unheard
That you might divide
When the echo was gone.
That you did condition
Her widowhood on.
That you were the stranger
That strangered the calm.
That you did engender
The thunder to storm.
That yours was the practice.
You cancelled the sun.
I tell that you sundered
From forest, consumed
where I watched.
where though I stayed,
where though I left,
I cannot decipher;
Which scarecrow she lured,
Or which pleasure took.

The plunder left to us
Is a similar eyelash.

Why did you leave me?

Gaining through the pillars
And the thunder at my temples
and her eyes that had altered
And the silence she was made of
And the dumb word ending.

Why did you follow?

Her third is unechoed.

And I am her stranger.


from Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics (Faber & Faber, 2005), copyright © Harold Pinter 2005, used by permission of the author

Where next?

Sponsor this poem

Would you like to sponsor this poem? Find out how here.


Buy album £0.00

1After Lunch


3Cancer Cells

4The Disappeared



7Cricket at Night

8Poem (Don't Look...)


10It Is Here

11Before They Fall


13Poem (The lights glow...)

14Joseph Brearley 1909 - 1977

15Denmark Hill


17I know the place


19Poem (and all the others...)


21Poem (they kissed...)

22All of That

23Poem (Always where...)

24The Table



27The Error of Alarm

28The Task

29The Second Visit

30You in the Night

31The Anaesthetist's Pin

32The Drama in April


34The Islands of Arran Seen from the Moher Cliffs

35A Glass at Midnight

36I Shall Tear Off My Terrible Cap

37The Midget

38New Year in the Midlands

39At the Palace of the Emperor at Dawn

40School Life

Books by Harold Pinter