This week’s poem is from Graham Clifford’s debut collection, The Hitting Game, published in 2014.
The Hitting Game is the first collection of poems by the London-based poet Graham Clifford. The vibrancy of the poet’s voice and the immediacy of his claims upon our attention are clear.
Characters first appear as ‘you’ in ‘Obvious Constellations’, ‘Amazing’ and ‘Trying’, as if we’ve arrived in the middle of a conversation. Incidents are approached from disarmingly intimate and also entertainingly oblique angles, as in ‘Shorn’. These are urban poems where nature appears like a strange intrusion: a flock of swallows ‘flick about dusk like black flames’. There is also a gentleness and empathy, particularly in regards to children, as in ‘About my Daughter’ where the word ‘echoes: ‘the er-ing sound of doubt/mixed with ought.’ There is humour and pathos as in the poem about a chimp and her keeper.
These are poems full of unexpected dramas and fresh enchantments, they provoke as well as delight.
About my Daughter
How right the word seems,
so drawn out,
the er?-ing sound of doubt
I stand in the dark
taking heat from you
spasming to slip my grip
full of voodoo, my daughter
a little scarecrow stuffed with eels
curling and flipping to get away.
Used light from cars
queasily slides across the wall,
shards and slices identically rearrange
with such recurring precision –
this long trapezoid, that misty rhombus
locked into the same move as tomorrow,
then its tomorrow.
A deadlocked endgame.
Doubt: ought; her. Daughter.
At last loose in my arms,
I lay you as if broken
into sleep’s black mouth.