There is a kind of love called maintenance
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;
Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;
Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes; which deals with dentists
And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds
The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living, which is Atlas.
And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.
This is another poem by UA Fanthorpe,who wrote the sheepdog poem. In a way the two poems are comparable – they’re both about love – but not flashy, romantic infatuation. She writes about the love which is at work quietly, in the background, a love which does, rather than blusters; which knows when to oil the wheels of the relationship.
The first half of the poem is about day to day house-keeping – the insurance, the milkman, the dentist – the kind of mundane tasks which keep the show on the road. It’s a heavy load to carry – like Atlas holding up the world .
The pivot point of the poem comes here:
“The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living’
Every life is complex and provisional.Relationships, like houses, need to be looked after, otherwise they fall into disrepair, and suddenly she’s talking about herself as a house in need of maintenance – “Laughs at my dryrotten jokes” “ My need for glossing “
This is a love poem to her partner – the one who smooths her way, who knows what she wants before she knows it herself.
There are lots of people like this in the world. We should be grateful to them.
You will find an audio version of the poem here:
You can hear another UA Fanthorpe poem- ” the Sheepdog” here: