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Camille Ralphs

She Learns to Count

She saw your kindness poke fun at her crying eye just once.

Not more than twice, she watched your honesty swear blind it did not know her.

Three times – three at most – she saw your cleverness look doe-eyed at a huckster of the first degree.

It might have been four times she witnessed your good humour screaming like a kettle in her favourite restaurant.

Was it five times she recognised your decency amid the crowd howling for tabloid blood?

There was a sixth occasion, she supposes, when she spotted your ambition on the sofa with a spliff and gaping case of wine.

No way could it be seven times she, shopping with your generosity, paid up with everything she had.

Nor eight times, surely, that she watched your self-control professing palpitations of the heart to someone new!

Nine times … Nine times she did not think she knew, or thought she could not know.

Ten times she heard someone in love with you deny the constitution of your soul.

Camille Ralphs has two published pamphlets, Malkin: An ellegy in 14 spels (The Emma Press, 2015) and uplifts & chains (If A Leaf Falls Press, 2020), with another forthcoming in 2023. She writes the ‘Averse Miscellany’ column for Poetry London, conducts the ‘Poem’s Apprentice’ interview series for Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal and is Poetry Editor at the TLS.

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