Hollie McNish

For the Sake of the Children


for my most despised piece of advice
given to people wanting to divorce

because no-one knows why someone
might want to leave a relationship

because guilt-tripping people into staying
can be a very dangerous thing.

won’t you just stay together
until the kids are in college?
sit round each mealtime pretending to smile

save the truth till they go out with friends
when the treaty between you
repeats its marital beggings like

stage understudies; doing the dishes
like wringing out blood;
bedsheets insomniac heavy

nighttime sodden with hunger
untouched; won’t you just stay together
grit teeth this is love

 until your kids are in college
until your kids have left home
until your kids are having kids of their own

until your grandkids are grown up
grey haired and dust;
the storm clouds bust open;

the stars spat their last;
sun fire imploded; the cosmos
sucked into a vacuumless dream

till your lips, once raw-rubbed
with eager ambitions
have forgotten the point of their softness 

won’t you just stay together
till your coffin, nailed shut
burns your body ash cold

and the funeral guests, unaware of
those scars in your cinder grey eyes
can comfortably make their way home

Hollie McNish is a poet and author based between Cambridge and Glasgow. She has published four collections of poetry: Papers (2012), Cherry Pie (2015), Why I Ride (2015), Plum (2017) and the poetic memoir, Nobody Told Me (2016), for which she won the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. McNish’s sixth publication, Slug: and other things I’ve been told to hate, was published in May 2021, with a further collection, Lobster, due in 2022, both with Hachette. In 2016, she co-wrote a play with fellow poet Sabrina Mahfouz, Offside, relating the history of British women in football. This was published as a book in 2017.

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