(from a post reviewing her latest collection, Flood, from which this poem is taken)
The biblical flood is unavoidable, isn’t it? In this version though, the survival is that of the wife and mother, and the survival is that of her self. Mrs Noah can say at the end : this is my voice. And it’s been hard-won. (I should say in passing that I like the device of using the stages of developing flood as described in a kind of Beaufort scale of inundation as titles for poems; I like the way that this one conflates and elides her personal story with the story of the valley, and its flood with those of myth).
Low lying regions inundated. Large objects begin to float
My man was not blameless but he knew his own mind.
He loved his sons, his God, his goats.
We were solid as wood, as steady as bread.
It was not perfect: it was what I had.
I brought up boys in a time of war.
I loved them. I had no choice.
And this is my voice:
you would not believe the violence;
how the ground was covered in minutes;
how quickly our valley was Nile.
When the river came with a sound like battle
and when all the waters were one
then we knew how angry we’d made him
and it was too late to run.
When I tell you I feared for my life
for my children – you cannot imagine.
When I say, I saw people drown,
they looked in my face and I could not help them –
ours was the only boat on that ocean;
a boat the size of a zoo, a mansion;
a sea the size of the world.
I lived to see what I loved destroyed
and all my world was unmade.
Forty days. The boredom and stink
and the darkness. No wonder
the birds pulled out their feathers
and the bear banged his head on the wall.
And when the rain stopped,
then the silence.
The mountains a dream in the waters beneath us.
I think, that day, there was sun.
When floods recede,
they don’t leave a world made shiny
and bright. For years, I’ll be cleaning up shit.
No bird nor branch can make this right.
No trick of the light. No I’ll-never-do-it
again. No god or man.
I loved him. I had no choice.
And this is my voice:
it takes more than a dove
and I will not forgive.
That note of defiance, truculence, even, sounds like a trumpet. It’s the voice of a survivor.
This was from the third post to introduce the work of poets I meet at The Albert Poets Monday night workshop group in Huddersfield. You’ve met David Spencer and Regina Weinert. Now meet Jack Faricy.
His silt-soled footprint fits like skin;
its mud-mould gives
a little, goads the nuzzling toes
and flexing arch.
I try to feel my way in, discern
the pulse of his veins,
to some new cunning in his prey. My eyes
strain to be his, not blurred
and blinking in the wind, but whetted
keen, flashing and darting
as he harries an aurochs
to death, heedless of shapes
left in the sand to harden, become relics
of the chase, like this
fragment of his scattered form.
Nothing. We share nothing
but this tide-washed stratum.
My foot’s a blindworm
thwarted in its burrowing, nostalgic
for its cast-off skin.
I turn back to the dunes. A boy
digs; his mother, deck-chaired,
wind-shielded, hugs herself for warmth,
waves. I retrace the steps between us.
This poem reminds me that Jack’s poems have two qualities that particularly grab my attention. One is the quality of curiosity coupled with a wide frame of reference; you can find yourself anywhere in the world or in history. The other is the way he will seize on the moment that draws you in, and then speculate about its back-story, which is often (but not invariably) presented quite filmically. So we start with the fossil record of the momentary impression of a long-dead hunter, his single footprint in estuary mud, then strain to see through his eyes, and fail. My foot’s a blindworm. I think this image nails it. We’ve reached a dead end, and then the focus shifts, as it does in film, back to the living and loved. We have been away too long.