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Brian Johnstone, from The Book of Belongings

Taking a Letter

The best upper sets do it.
Cole Porter

Missing from work, she explained it away
as a family affair. To the family, work was to blame,
wartime posting her south, her stenography skills
just what the doctor ordered.

But not what he said, probing so deep
that it hurt, blaming the thing
on the war, the bad faith it'd induced. But love
had induced her to do it, just like it said in the song.

Friends all said it was wrong, against every code,
but still booked a hospital bed, kept her hidden
when truth swelled the lie. All those letters
she'd taken, bar one, left unread.

The shorthand for gone was for good; for adopted
it was for best. The letter made it all plain: she won't see
that baby again. It's back to pounding the keys.
The bell rings — the line ends. Understood??