First Ball

by Marianne Burton

He is gone behind the peeling pavilion
where there is neither teasing nor sympathy,
only weeds, rubble, and the first slight snub of rain.

Useless to say there will be worse things one day
(a parent dies, a woman leaves) and better things
(a woman stays, a daughter lives), or that in another country

war-caught people suffer worse than your imaginings
can picture at this single-figure age. Inane chat.
Just the throb of humiliation, acrid mud staining

once white shoes, drizzle dropping on a fallen bat,
while nettles insert needles into this stinging now
which no one else can share. No getting you out of that.