Alison Lock paints with words, using nature to explore an inner world. In “Kingfisher – upriver from Pulteney Bridge” a tour guide can’t hold attention from “the tip of a peacock’s feather that now/ adorns a tiny bird in a dull tree.” She experiments with form: there are haibun, verbal mirror poems and also prose poems often ending in a short, centred final stanza, e.g. “Playground” (complete poem):
“As we drive past the park, I see children on swings, their legs kicking out, sending them higher and higher, a boy turning a roundabout, whizzing, faster and faster as a girl watches. I see a single tree, leafless branches like unsheathed bones, bending towards them in a half embrace. It is as if the sap has stopped and the tree is shunned, abandoned by the fertile rush of leaf and seed and pod and bud and all the other bursting things like meadow grass and hedge. The cries and shouts and delights from the playground echo, becoming smaller and smaller, until the park, this moment in time, has gone, out of sight, beyond the quarter light.
the sky is endless”
The familiar image of children in a playground very much in the spring of their lives compared with the wintered tree is transformed by the image of the shunned tree and the children’s lack of knowledge of their potential. The abandoned tree also suggests that knowledge brings responsibility which, passed on too early, will diminish their childhood.
“fugue” is about starlings but also could be a metaphor:
on harp wires
rows of late leavers
starlings on a stave
awaiting the fulcrum
of a fickle tide
for the fugue”
The references to “harp wires” and “stave” clearly point to the musical definition of fugue as a short melody introduced and then taken up by other instruments as the starlings wait for a leader to lead the flock into the air. They behave like any group of people who know what they have to do but are hesitantly hanging back not wanting to be first and waiting for someone to signal when to start.
Grief is handled with sensitivity, in “Joining up the dots”
“I see the tension in her arm,
folding in flour, milk, tears,
while my cutter is making
the shape of a star.
At night we look up to the loved ones,
as they join up the dots,
sketching their ploughs
and bears and dragons until –
she points to the new arrival,
the one that pulls on the thread – still attached to our hearts.”
The human condition is firmly linked to nature, which, closely observed, can offer us lessons in dealing with obstacles and problems. Alison Lock shows a knowledge of words worn lightly, choosing familiar vocabulary to introduce and communicate ideas whilst also being mindful of the potential interpretations of each word chosen.