A Civil Affair (Paul O’Brien)


The body language was wary

No handshake, no pleasantries

When they both sat down together

To start a new peace

Pretending at first to be strangers

As they carefully pulled up their chairs

One cleaning his glasses half smiling

One running a hand through her hair


Though they knew every line, every furrow

Each other’s habits and traits

Manners and favourite colours

It’s the first time they met face to face

With only a table between them

With bottles of water and pens

And a document waiting for signing

Saying “This is where it all ends!”


The first put his name to the paper

The other one just sat and watched

Taking her time, for good order

Not letting herself to be rushed

“Did you come all this way to ignore me?”

He said, taking bull by the horns

But she was lost, humming the chorus

Of a tune that once was their song


But she checked herself and said “Sorry

My mind was just miles away

It was flicking through the old photos

Of holidays and children at play

“We just have to put that behind us

Though I’m not saying forgive or forget

But if we pool our resources

We could make the best of it yet”


Proceedings were civil and silent

The official professional and short

Complimenting both parties

For avoiding the mess of the courts

The paper-work all done and dusted

They stood up and pocketed pens

There was still no sign of a handshake

No talk of meeting again


They stepped out into the evening

Both taking the last train home

She walked to platform seven

And he walked to platform one

You know you’ve reached the last station

And that it’s the end of the line

When she’s counting the lines on the ceiling

As you try to one last time