**In January 2017 I entered a competition in “Writing Magazine” to write a piece that began with the line, “Is that what you meant to do?”
I discovered in July that I didn’t win or get placed but winning wasn’t really on my agenda when I wrote it – just as well! – and I simply enjoyed the challenge of writing a piece from that simple opening line.
I had fun writing it and it I hope you enjoy reading it. It would be nice to read any comments you may wish to make.**
Is that what you meant to do?
I ask you, my love, please tell me true.
Was your intent to scour my heart?
To take my love and tear it apart?
Did you pause or stop and think of me
While in lust you sought your liberty?
As you stomped my heart beneath your heel
Did you once consider how I’d feel?
Would I fall and crumple? Or would I break?
Just how much more pain could I take?
Did you set out to crush my soul?
Please tell me now, was that your goal?
I wander through this home we built
Where love was made, where tears were spilt.
Though I linger awhile in every room
My memories can’t allay my gloom.
That armchair which was once your mother’s
And where we sat and first were lovers.
Your stout old desk at which you toiled
It’s surface scarred, battered and soiled
With rings from cups, from inks and wine
Where, newly wed, we used to dine.
Each stain tells of our years together
Through good, through bad, we braved all weather.
Wine stains, now faded, still mark the mat
Pegs on the wall for your scarf, my hat.
Framed paintings by my late grandfather
The ones I’d hung but which you rather
Were taken down and packed away
To bring out again some never day.
Books, with cracked spines, on shelves, long read
With tales and verse that thrilled our head.
I regard each reminder of our long shared past
Those warm, tender days I thought would last.
You’re gone from me now, this house an empty, bitter box
My once bright dreams are wrapped in chains, constrained by locks.
The bed, our bed, where nightly we embraced such passion
In every way and style, in every fashion.
We rolled, we writhed, we joined as one.
That bed in which you bore our son.
Our lovely boy, he made us whole
With his joyful, loving, tender soul.
But no fires burn now. The bed harsh, stone cold.
Our love filled days long ceased to unfold
Your love slipped from me, just like our lad.
No good husband I, nor world’s best dad.
Was that when your hate began to grow?
That day it happened? Tell me, I demand to know.
Do you remember our wedding? Do you recall the date?
That’s right, it’s today, you bitch, and how I hate
That our years together to you mean so little
I shout in fury, I rage, spew curse wrapped spittle.
Why? Oh, why? Oh, why? I wail.
What did I do so wrong? Where did I fail?
Your words dig, they bite. Your truth confirms my fears
That you loved me once but not for long years.
You wickedly tease, say I’m needy, I’m far too weak,
Nor man enough to sate your sexual peak.
My habits, my words and deeds, provoke you so much
That you tense and wretch, detest my every touch.
You laugh and you mock, lauding unfaithful deeds,
Each sinful act that slaked your wanton needs.
You goad, you rile, scream it’s me you blame.
You tell each intimate detail, shout every name
That you can recall of each of your lovers
Those men from work and numerous others.
You boast of strangers in parks, of men in bars
Of snatched, lustful trysts in dark, parked cars.
Betrayals, liaisons and furtive glances
That led to sex or half grasped chances
To feel again, I don’t know what,
For I was content with what I’d got.
You claim you loved me years ago
But your love died when we, no I, lost Joe.
You blame me for that terrible September day
When I took our dog and son to play
Up the road half a mile to the local park.
To watch him run and chase each noisy bark.
To make him soar on swings and shoot down slides
To spin and whirl him fast on round’bout rides.
To laugh and to play, to jump and to run
And gaily frolic in bright autumn sun.
We three set out, dad, son and furry friend,
But you’d stayed at home, you’d work to end.
We’d run, we’d played, with ball, with bat
We’d chased the dog and thrown her plastic rat.
Joe singing rhymes and silly songs with joy
Such a happy trio, man, dog and boy.
A break for ice cream, coffee for me,
The dog laps water greedily.
My rest, too brief, Joe wants more play
Eager for fun to fill the day.
Coats and jumpers for posts lay on the floor
I let Joe win and help him score.
Our beautiful boy, so football mad,
Giggling as he beats his dad.
And then it’s time for home, it’s time for tea.
Just one more goal, oh please, Daddy.
Come now, Joe, we really have to go
But we’ll stop at the shop just so
You can spend your fifty pence on treats
A comic maybe? Or penny sweets?
Laid on the grass, I’d slowly rose
As boy and dog rushed on, but then I froze.
I called out to them, I screamed so loud,
My terror soared above the crowd.
Warnings, threats, pleas for Joe to stop,
My voice falling silent as I watched him drop.
We’d taught him to stop at the side of the road.
But his dog ran out and so Joe strode
In grass stained shorts and on his little feet
He stepped from the safety of the street.
Straight into the path of a large black truck
Helpless to act, I watched horrified as Joe was struck.
The driver sat shocked, still in his seat,
The company name painted so neat
In bright colours on the side of the cab door
As our darling child lay crumpled on the floor.
A five year old boy against a three tonne van,
When machine hits flesh, the metal wins, not mere man.
No parent should see how metal mangles,
Breaking childish limbs into obscene angles.
To know how bones it splits and flesh it cleaves,
To see their child’s blood on autumns leaves.
Joe’s pain was brief but my torment will last
I’m unable to escape the past.
In my head, a movie on repeated play,
An unceasing reminder of that day.
I live every minute, each dreadful second
I still see him run as, madly, I beckoned.
Joe, stop! Come back! Don’t go beyond the gate!
I reach for each time but I’m always too late.
The years went by, our affection grew still
The embers died and you lost the will
To try to care or even guard the flame
As I shouldered guilt, you cast the blame.
Our love, once wild, went lame and withered
You turned elsewhere as crushed, I dithered.
But you wouldn’t forget, you couldn’t forgive
You didn’t give our love the chance to live.
Surely I…us…must have crossed your mind
As you bedded each lover what did you seek to find?
I would once have gladly bled for you
Now, at last, it’s clear what I must do.
For, why? I wonder, did you stay
Alone at home and not come to play?
Was it really work you had to do?
Or did you take that chance to screw?
Have you deceived and have you lied?
Did your straying start before Joe died?
I’ve wondered since, did they start then,
Your infidelities with countless men?
As Joe’s friends grew tall, as they grew older,
I bore the grief, the blame did shoulder.
These years you’ve convinced me it was all my fault?
But, finally, the truth has struck me with a jolt.
Why weren’t you there to hold him tight?
To see him safely home that night?
Would that day have ended happily
If you’d been there, not just us three?
With Joe between us, safe in the middle,
We’d have made it back, that’s not the riddle.
My mind struggles to comprehend
How hopes and dreams can so easily end.
One moment son and four legged mate
Are waiting by the wrought iron gate
That gives entry to a park for fun
But for me marks the place I lost our son.
The truth of why you were not there
Once would have hurt, now I do not care
To learn of your hours laying in someone’s bed
As I laid in the road cradling our boys’ head.
Knowing you had romped in ecstasy
With a stranger while Joe died with me
Truth has made me strong, has fuelled my ire,
It’s sparked in me a savage, dark desire.
My grief, my shame, long held since that date
Has morphed into rage and stark white hate
For the failings of his mother, my wife,
For you were not there to save his life.
I called you today, back to this place
Not to beg you stay or see your face.
Revenge, they say, is best as a cold served dish
And now, dear wife, you’ll have your wish,
To end our marriage, to see us part
I’ll grant your desire as I pierce your heart.
Blood drips slowly from my blade so cruel
And your dying eyes see now that I’m no fool.
You took our love, in payment I’ll take your life.
And leave you carved and cut beneath my knife.
I ask you, my love, please tell me true.
Is that what you meant to do?
Gavin Dimmock. 2017