Heart Crime : Alan Franks


As a young man I stole a heart-shaped locket

From an old woman’s shelf.

My hand just swept it off and into a pocket

As if I were someone else.

Now, as then, I don’t know why I did it.

Because it was there, I guess,

And because I’d decided her grandson was an idiot

Whose friendship made me embarrassed.

It was silver and cold. It opened, and in it

Was a lock of grey hair

Which turned me into a grave-robber for a minute.

I wished it wasn’t there.

The dreams that came to get me, you wouldn’t believe:

First I’m shot like a pheasant;

Next, my side is slit by the terrible scythe

Of the grey moon’s crescent.

I hide it in the loft, the wall, the wainscot.

It roves rather than rests,

Like the core matter of a contested conscience,

My secreted priest.

Years go by and my own heart gets nicked –

Just when I think I’ve got her.

Tricksy old love and his haul of stolen tickers

Hung in his hideous abattoir.

I get shot of the locket. Decent price

From an old Brighton associate;

Shut myself from the will to turn out nice

Or, God help us, expiate.

Strange to say, he never opens the piece;

Just puts it on the scales.

The lock must add point-something of an ounce

To the weight of the sale.

All right then dreams, I say, so give me hell

And, scared half to death,

I’m barely feeding into my new love’s shell-like

A single curl of breath.

To all who find in my chest an empty hole

That should be heavy-hearted

I say go estimate the weight of the soul

That parts from the departed.