A Middle-Aged Woman Dissuades a Potential Lover

Three feet away, you lean against your chair:
I tense before the table’s curve,
Your eyes raking:

What’s become of your liking for opulent women?
Look hard at these wrinkles, freckles, flab,
I urge, but love-talk swirls like your cigarette smoke,
Chasing its spiral trail.
I imagine my husband talking
To a younger woman also drinking tea
And wonder about her yes or no.

It’s not that there’s too much to lose
And I’m too young for you.
The feelings I’ve dissected
Would swim and sink in yours.
In truth the spread of middle age,
Jealous of children, spouse, money, work,
Faith, hope and charity,
Fends off more than the love
That time won’t bend for.

An affair ends with ashes,
As buds and leaves burn dry;
A man returns to his wife,
A woman gives up the lie.

My tender apologies;
You are a friend.
For what I lack,
Please don’t be sad.
Perhaps we’ll meet
In another life
Not half as bad,
When I’ll be a man,
And you, a wife.

by Leong Liew Geok
from Love is Not Enough (1991)


SELECTED POEMS: “Women Without Men" >