Abegail Morley’s second collection focuses on a sense of loss and relationships, effectively using a sparse lyricism. In “I learn this from him” where he has written
“love poems with loops and doodles around the borders.
He says he’ll read them to me some time. I realise this means
I’ll be coming back. The coffee is strong, slightly bitter,
grainy at the bottom of the cup – dries on my tongue.
He runs his hand down my cheek. I think he’ll put his thumb
in the dimple on my chin, but he doesn’t. I feel
the touch of his fingertips on my collarbone.”
The poem captures the sense of a doomed relationship, not just in the bitter dregs and reluctance tor return but also in his actions: he’s reading love poems not written for her and that controlling action of fingertips on her collarbone.
The title poem is worth quoting in full:
“I didn’t think you
would exist this much,
not now, not with this snow.
You are unborn,
you are not my child.
I did not extend life to you.
You spit my name;
a tiny ball of phlegm
keeps itself in a tight circle.
There are teeth in it.
It has a possessing smile.
Frost has spoken to you,
it has a soft sound.
Its mouth is small.
I lost you to a glass jar;
you have a fin and a tail.
I hear you breathe.
I didn’t think your breath
would be this warm.
You are too cold.
The ice found you –
it erased your fingerprints.”
With the exception of stanzas three and four, each is built around long vowel sounds, creating a soft drawn-out feel fitting with the theme of grief and loss. Stanzas three and four are built around shorter vowels and harder sounds, echoing the change in mood and capturing anger and denial. The change from speaking of the snow child in second and then third person and then back again to second in the fifth stanza further underlines the mood. The poet is firmly in control and all the elements within the poem complement each other.
“Snow Child” contains focused, controlled poems that demonstrate poetic skill and a precise use of language to achieve poetic aims.
By Emma Lee