Thursday, 13 September 2018

A poem by Sharon Phillips

Absent Friend

i.m. M.W.

Your letter's so old the paper has yellowed,
its edges the colour of the nicotine stain
on your fingers. It was Rothman’s you smoked;
the ash fell grey and white on your cassock

as we sat in your clergy flat and talked.
You said you were sinful. Morning sun shone
through thin brown curtains you kept drawn,
glanced off red and gold icons on your wall,

the bottle of Russian vodka next to your chair.
You said you loved men. You said it was wrong.
You wrote out your recipe for aubergine salad,
in black ink on paper from your spiral notebook.

Your hand shook as you wrote. One Christmas
you gave me a case of sweet pink Krimsekt
and menthol cigarettes in gold and green packs.
You saw I was lonely. You made me laugh.

The last time we met we ate fish and chips.
I’ve always been celibate, you said. Your face
was sallow. You said you’d stopped drinking.
Keep well and happy, your letter ends.

Sharon is a retired college principal, who lives on the Isle of Portland, in Dorset. She spends her time cooking, reading and writing poems, some of which have been published or are forthcoming in Ink Sweat and Tears, Atrium, The High Window, Amaryllis and Snakeskin, among others.


  1. This poem really got me. It's simplicity belies the underlying complexity of human relationships and of course the topic that I am so upset about: male clergy of a church I shall not name.

  2. I like the compassion, the non-judging acceptance of the poet/friend, the sympathy. There's a clear-eyed lack of sentimentality in the poem, which is nevertheless utterly moving. Thank you, Sharon, for this great 'in memoriam'.