Peter Gilmour developed an early love of poetry, which got sidelined as life got in the way, until the death of his wife when poetry became a necessity again. Some of the poems here touch on that death, eg in “Overkill” where the narrator on finding packs of paracetamol and half bottles of whisky,
“Again and again I wondered why –
why stow them in such different places?
Still I don’t understand. I thought of food parcels
to begin with, not any kind of poison.
All I can think of these days/ is the degree of desperation:
six suicide packs. You only needed one.”
He doesn’t judge his late wife, but tries to reach out and understand. She hid her reasons as successfully as the suicide packs. He focuses on the questions rather than the drama, questions that still haunt him and may never be answered. Note the judicious use of repetition – “again” and “why”. The poems are colloquial and easy to read aloud, which suggests some careful honing took place behind the scenes.
But these are not just about his late wife. In “Out of Step”,
“He looks for his parents
but does not find them. He walks,
then, off the edge of the world,
right off the edge of the world
and has been treading water
ever since, waiting to drown.
He will talk to you endlessly
of that moment – one Sunday
after chapel – when he walked
off the edge of the world
into nobody’s arms,
just a blast of air and of ash,
a sense as of cups and trophies
glinting terribly behind him.”
Effective use of repetition again, not just the phrase “off the edge of the world” but also the echo in lines 2 and 9, “He walks”/ “he walked”. A sensation and feeling the “he” in the poem is doomed to return to, searching for answers.
“Taking Account” won’t set the world ablaze, but it is a careful, considered handling of a tragedy made all the more poignant for not being sentimental or draped in drama.
Taking a break for the holidays now, back in the new year.
By Emma Lee