“The Only Reason for Time” Fiona Moore (HappenStance) – poetry review

The Only Reason for Time Fiona Moore book cover

These poems show both care and control. “The Shirt” contains a warning, the first shirt is hurriedly cut as medical staff urgently save a life and months later is found bundled into the airing cupboard,

“I’d washed it afterwards, not knowing what to do
with it, or that in three weeks the same thing
would happen to another shirt, a favourite,
dull cotton whose thick weave made it look
as if all the pink shell-grains of sand
had come together on one beach,
a shirt for a gentle hug; and from then on,
nothing happened that we would forget.”

The impersonal “it” has a distancing effect, yet the shirt was worn on intimate occasions as the detail of the weave is noticed and remembered. Clearly the shirt’s owner is distance, no longer with the poem’s narrator. The intense scrutiny that the weave was subject to gives way to “a gentle hug”, a gesture of reassurance as a lover becomes a carer, wrenched into noticing the unforgettable events that led to loss. Although the poems do focus on mourning, they are not melancholic, in “Overwinter,” there’s a suggestion of hope,

“Nothing will happen for a while, nothing –
and I need such certainty: to become
embedded deep within this season
when dark overplaits the day’s pale strand.
Change may come while nothing seems to change.
I know it will take a long time.”

The last two lines quoted show endurance, an acknowledgement that life will continue after a fashion. The “Third Day of Fog”,

“Narcissus wouldn’t be ashamed
to view himself in puddles,
frame as he’d be by the flaming
orange, purple and fuchsia red
of an Irish hedge. He’d get a shock
when it all dulled in the mud.
What would you think of me
now? We must have kissed
within five miles of here.”

The vividness of colour recalls the vivid joy of those kisses. Although the loss is personal, Fiona Moore is writing from experience, the poems open out and allow a reader to identify with their own ghosts and bring their own experiences to bear. They are not solely about loss either, the collection’s title is from a remark by Einstein, she explores the binary effect of remember/forget and there’s a cheerful memory of glimpsing nuns ironically bringing to mind a pint of stout. “The Only Reason for Time” has a consistency of voice and a confidence unusual in a first collection.

Available from HappenStance

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