What Worked – by Ken Cumberlidge


What worked? What did the trick, d’you think, for her?

Gossip-giggly phone chats with the girlfriends?
(gradually less often, as each one wed).
The cute-but-sporty runabout; the roadster,
to take her to the coast… the front… the edge.

The gym, perhaps? The fitness class? The treadmill:
running towards nothing, in a sweat.
Nights out on the town | the tiles | tequila.
The one-off “you’ll do/shut up/fuck me” sex.

A pair of must-have shoes; a bag; another.
The rom-com box-set evening in, alone and misty-eyed.
The fashion mags, the diet plans, the make-over.
The New Year’s resolutions cast aside.

The social network: microblogging, chat-rooms,
the twittersphere… the mobile gambling app.
The nightly glass – no, bottle – of supermarket Merlot.
The cigarettes she thought she’d given up.

The feng-shui re-arrangement; the spring cleaning:
this is IT – fresh start – no compromise!
Scrubbing out the drawers with disinfectant.
Counting – and re-counting – and re-counting – all the knives.

Decorating cupcakes! Getting bored with it.
Making quirky ‘stuff’ to sell online.
The drawer full of unopened brown envelopes:
payday loans; rent arrears; unpaid parking fines.

The mollifying, nullifying, synapse-swaddling cuddle
of those pills the doctor said would be her friends,
with the warning on the box that starts with ‘Never’
and goes on to say

Well… You know how it ends.



Birkenhead-born recovering actor Ken Cumberlidge has been writing poetry, songs and stories on and off for 40+ years, during which his work has popped up sporadically in print (SMOKE, Bogg, Ludd’s Mill) – and, more recently, online (Algebra Of Owls, Ink Sweat & Tears, Snakeskin). Since 2011 he’s been based in Norwich, where he can be seen, muttering and gesticulating in the company of an embarrassed-looking dog. Don’t worry – the dog’s fine.

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