Stanza four opens with a question directed at her lover -
Yes today we’re in love aren’t we? The deliberate use of “today” in the line entirely affects the meaning. It implies that there are days when the couple are not in love.
The question mark adds to the tone of doubt and reveals a little of the insecurity the speaker feels. Suddenly though she again abandons her introspection to show us more details about the city that really reveal the speaker’s affection for this place.
The imagery is evocative, she describes the city as
splintering, with a
brazen black Victorian heart.
There is no attempt to romanticise this place. She loves it warts and all. If anything knowing its faults and history makes it even more appealing.
So what, she says,
if every other tenement/wears its hearth on its gable end?
This idea then allows her once more to reflect on her relationship. She puns on the phrase 'to wear your heart on your sleeve', implying that she loves without reservation and sometimes leaves herself vulnerable to being hurt.
Again her insecurity creeps in and she is desperate for some reassurance -
All I want/is my glad eye to catch/a glint in your flinty Northern face again. The word 'flinty' could have negative connotations of coldness or unresponsiveness, but it could also suggest strength and wisdom - a rock that can support, that is ageless.
We wander with the couple through
Paddy’s Market, not lingering because
the arches/stank too much today/ the usual wetdog reek rising. This is a poem which employs all our senses. In these lines Lochhead perfectly captures sour smell emitting from the
piles of old damp clothes.
In stanza five we hear for the first time the voice of her lover. He notes there is
Somebody absolutely steamboats…on sweet wine
The focus of the poem moves to this character who is depicted squatting
in a puddle with nothing to sell/but three bent forks a torn/calendar (last year’s)/and a broken plastic sandal.
The observational detail makes this section slightly humorous. But there is also a sense of pity evoked for the poverty of this man’s existence. The couple turn away, not having
the stomach for it today.
This line is ambiguous - does she mean that they aren’t in the mood for the market or that they are despondent about their future?
This verse ends in the lines
No connoisseur can afford to be too scrupulous/about keeping his hands clean.
Again this has a double meaning. It suggests that just as a real bargain hunter needs to be prepared to root around for something precious to reveal itself, so too a relationship can only be sustained through effort and hard work.