Yesterday, while out scouring the beach,
I bumped into Bellyache,
looking happier than I’d ever known him,
strolling hand in hand
with an orangutan in a floral dress
who he introduced as Helena.
They wore matching Panama hats,
‘Just Married’ printed on the bands.
The hair on Helena’s stocky arms and legs
glowed a dark vivid red
in the early evening sun. Her eyes
were a pair of freshly roasted coffee beans.
Bellyache recognised me, telling Helena,
‘This is an old classmate of mine…’
but then, having trailed off awkwardly,
he obliged me to offer my name
as I stooped to shake her hand.
Her fingers were long and leathery,
her grip disconcertingly firm.
For a moment I considered kissing
her cheek, but refrained,
unsure how she’d take it.
We’d given Jake the nickname ‘Bellyache’
because of how relentlessly
he’d grumble about everyone and everything,
making him colicky company
and notably noxious to the ladies.
I suppose time changes all
of us in one way or another.
I, for example, make my living
collecting the droppings of sea birds,
can no longer play the harp,
and am lonely enough to covet
the orangutan bride of
a man I once thought of
as understanding nothing.
This poem was commended in the The Interpreter's House Poetry Competition and published in issue 62 of their magazine.