Husband, this will be hard to hear, – Mary Ford Neal

Husband, this will be hard to hear,

but you’re dead, and I hate your ghost.

You died in such small increments that I think
you may have missed your own last breath, but even so,
it was no less the shock to me. Fetal with grief,
I felt such eiderdown relief that anything of you remained
that I encouraged him to hang around, a charm against
the solitude that seemed to seep in under every door.
I thought it might be a bit like having a cat. But
it’s nothing like having a cat.

The blow was realising that he’s really nothing like you,
darling, he’s cold, and when he slides between the sheets
at night, I inch away. OK, I more than inch:
I now sleep in a different room, with lights on, and
he sleeps in what was formerly our bed.
I’ve steadily yielded whole rooms to him, but still,
somehow, he’s always in my way.

I tried with him, truly I did –
I crept from my sleepless room
to ice myself beside him two or three times, but
he was never hungry, like you.
Eventually, I remembered that, of course,
ghosts never are.

Worse still, he does some things that frankly creep me out –
the crawling, the shapeshifting.
And this will be the hardest thing of all for you to hear:
your dog detests him too. I’m sorry,
sweetheart, but you always had two rules:

We must be honest with each other.


We don’t involve the dog in our delusions. It has its own life.

The first of these applies, I think, and so,
although this must be very hard to hear,
I knew you’d want to know.

Mary Ford Neal is a writer and academic based near Glasgow. Her debut collection Dawning (Indigo Dreams) will be published in August 2021. She is assistant editor of 192 Magazine and Nine Pens Press, and was Pushcart nominated in 2021.  

2 thoughts on “Husband, this will be hard to hear, – Mary Ford Neal

  1. What an astonishing poem. I love it. From ‘I felt such eiderdown relief’… tender, ‘to ice myself beside him’ …. so stark, I feel the presence of this relationship through it’s absence.
    A poem that is written in an arrestingly direct way with delicious language and speaks to the universality of loss…. and how very personal the journey of living with it is.


  2. A fabulous poem which explores the weird liminal space which opens up after a partner dies before the realisation of loss and grief begins. Brilliantly done.


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