This week’s poem is from Kim Moore’s debut collection, The Art of Falling, released earlier this year.
Kim Moore, in her lively debut poetry collection, The Art of Falling, sets out her stall in the opening poems, firmly in the North amongst ‘My People’: “who swear without knowing they are swearing… scaffolders and plasterers and shoemakers and carers…”. ‘A Psalm for the Scaffolders’ is a hymn for her father’s profession.
The title poem riffs on the many sorts of falling “so close to failing or to falter or to fill”. The poet’s voice is direct, rhythmic, compelling. These are poems that confront the reader, steeped in realism, they are not designed to soothe or beguile. They are not designed with careful overlays of irony and although frequently clever, they are not pretentious but vigorously alive and often quite funny. In the first section there is: a visit to a Hartley street spiritualist, a train trip from Barrow to Sheffield, a Tuesday at Wetherspoons.
The author’s experience as a peripatetic brass teacher sparks several poems. The lives of others also feature throughout, including a quietly devastating central sequence, ‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’: is the story of a woman embroiled in a relationship marked by coercion and violence. These are close-to-the-bone pieces, harrowing and exact.
The final section includes beautifully imagined character portraits of John Lennon and Wallace Hartley (the violinist on the Titanic), as well as Jazz trumpeter Chet Baker and the poet Shelley and other poems on: suffragettes, a tattoo inspired by Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, and a poetic letter addressed to a ‘Dear Mr Gove’.
How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping
What happened sits in my heart like a stone.
You told me I’d be writing about it
all my life, when I asked
how to stop saying these things to the moon.
I told you how writing it makes the dark
lift and then settle again like a flock of birds.
You said that thinking of the past like birds
who circle each year will make the stone
in my chest heavy, that the dark
that settles inside me will pass. You say it
is over, you say that even the moon
can’t know all of what happened, that to ask
to forget is to miss the point. I should ask
to remember. I should open myself to the birds
who sing for their lives. I should tell the moon
how his skin was like smoke, his hand a stone
that fell from a great height. It
was not what I deserved. The year was dark
because he was there and my eyes were dark
and I fell to not speaking. If I asked
him to leave he would smile. Nothing in it
was sacred. And I didn’t look up. The birds
could have fallen from the sky like stones
and I wouldn’t have noticed. The moon
was there that night in the snow. The moon
was waiting the day the dark
crept into my mouth and left me stone
silent, stone dumb, when all I could ask
was for him to stop, please stop. The birds
fled to the trees and stayed there. It
wasn’t their fault. It was nobody’s fault. It
happened because I was still. The moon
sung something he couldn’t hear. The bird
in my heart silent for a year in the dark.
This is the way it is now, asking
for nothing but to forget his name, a stone
that I carry. It cools in my mouth in the dark
and the moon sails on overhead. You ask
about birds, but all I can talk of is stones.