Matthew Stoppard’s ghostly poem brings the emotional act of accepting a partner’s past into a physical reality. Illustration by Sam Pash.

Love shoved me in
and a gallery of shadows circled
to play pontoon knowing my game is five card brag.
I shook hands with one of the men,
feeling her skin across his palm;
he mocked my decade of childhood flab,
I crawled to the corner and cried myself thin.

The boy who goosed a drunken version of herself,
faint and vomit-laden in a large garden shed,
said his father knew Nostradamus,
threatening to tell her all about my dud sperm
and when I will soil my paisley pyjamas.

Queensbury pose, dressed in my sister’s boyfriend’s clothes,
I boxed each shadow, including three teenagers
and a one-night stand, then propped open the door
of her wiredrawn history
as she walked past the gates of mine
on her way to calm my fists.

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