An excerpt from

A Picnic on Ice: Selected Poems
by Matthew Sweeney


After she left he bought another cactus
just like the one she’d bought him
in the airport in Marrakesh. He had to hunt
through London, and then, in Camden,
among hordes of hand-holding kids
who clog the market, he found it,
bought it, and brought it home to hers.
Next week he was back for another,
then another. He was coaxed into trying
different breeds, bright ones flashing red –
like the smile of the shop-girl
he hadn’t noticed. He bought a rug, too,
sand-coloured, for the living room,
and spent a weekend repainting
the walls beige, the ceiling pale blue.
He had the worn, black suite re-upholstered
in tan, and took to lying on the sofa
in a brown djellaba, with the cacti all around,
and Arab music on. If she should come back,
he thought, she might feel at home.