The Unfaithful Wife


He started coming on to me
at the spirit-grocer's warped and wonky counter
and after a preliminary spot of banter
offered to buy me a glass of porter;
I wasn't one to demur
and in no time at all we were talking
the hind leg off a donkey.
A quick succession of snorts and snifters
and his relentless repartee
had me splitting my sides with laughter.
However much the drink had loosened my tongue
I never let on I was married.

He would ask if he could leave me home
in his famous motoring-car,
though we hadn't gone very far down that road
when he was overtaken by desire.
He pulled in to a lay-by
the better to heap me with kisses.
There were plastic bags bursting with rubbish
stacked against the bushes.
Even as he slipped his hand between my thighs
I never let on I was married.

He was so handy,
too, when it came to unbuttoning my dress
and working his way past my stocking-tops
to the soft skin just above.
When it dawned on him
that I wasn't wearing any panties
things were definitely on the up and up
and it hardly seemed the appropriate moment
to let on I was married.

By this time he had dropped his trousers
and, with his proper little charlie,
manoeuvered himself into the passenger-seat
and drew me down until, ever so gingerly,
I might mount.
As I rode him past the winning-post
nothing could have been further from my mind
than to let on I was married.

For his body was every bit as sweet
as a garden after a shower
and his skin was a sheer-delicate as my own
– which is saying rather a lot –
while the way he looked me straight in the eye
as he took such great delight
gave me a sense of power and the kind of insight
I'd not had since I was married.

There was this all-pervasive smell
from the refuse-sacks lying under the hedge
while the green, grassy slope beyond
was littered with dog-shit.
Now, as the groundswell of passion
began to subside,
he himself had a hang-dog, coy expression
that made me think it was just as well
I never let on I was married.

As I marched up my own garden-path
I kicked up a little dust.
I burst into song and whistled a tune
and vowed not to breathe a word
to a soul about what I'd done.
And if, by chance, I run into him again
at a disco or in some shebeen
the only honourable course – the only decent thing –
would be to keep faith and not betray his trust
by letting on I was married.

Don't you think?


--Irish; trans. Paul Muldoon


Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Irish, trans. Paul Muldoon, Pharoah's Daughter, Wake Forest University Press, 1990.