Contemporary Poets: 13 Hugo Williams

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The Independent Culture
Hugo Williams made his name with youthful, Thom Gunnish poems about travel, identity and desire - and an alter ego called Sonny Jim. He came into his own with the collections Love-Life (1979), plain-seeming love poems edged with surrealism, and then Writing Home (1985), a moving series of poems about his actor-father. Now 50, he continues to explore aspects of the divided self.


God give me strength to lead a double life.

Cut me in half.

Make each half happy in its own way

with what is left. Let me disobey

my own best instincts

and do what I want to do, whatever that may be,

without regretting it, or thinking I might.

When I come home late at night from home,

saying I have to go away,

remind me to look out the window

to see which house I'm in.

Pin a smile on my face

when I turn up two weeks later with a tan

and presents for everyone.

Teach me how to stand and where to look

when I say the words

about where I've been

and what sort of time I've had.

Was it good or bad or somewhere in between?

I'd like to know how I feel about these things,

perhaps you'd let me know?

When it's time to go to bed in one of my lives,

go ahead of me up the stairs,

shine a light in the corners of my room.

Tell me this: do I wear pyjamas here,

or sleep with nothing on?

If you can't oblige by cutting me in half,

God give me strength to lead a double life.