Morag Anderson’s “Sin is Due to Open in a Room Above Kitty’s” is an exploration of human connections, the delights and horrors of a life that seems ordinary until it’s poked into revealing its casual violence and, occasionally, tenderness. At “Two Doors Down” lives the “daftest Dad on our street” who plays magic tricks with coins and cards but also a night visitor to his daughter’s bedroom,
“Choosing to believe
in space created
by the child,
rigid against ponies
papered to her wall,
he slid in.
But when truth
awoke his household
inside his bleeding brain,
was left too dead
No-one collected his ashes.
he is burning yet.”
The choice of “ponies” is apt, they’re reserved for children or were used in enclosed spaces to pull coal from the mines. “Slid in” is ambiguous but he clearly didn’t just slide into her bed. He also made a choice that a girl had created space for him, ignoring that she was too little to fill the bed. His terminal illness feels like karma caught up with him and no one wanted to take responsibility for his ashes, the way he refused to be the adult and take responsibility for his actions.
In the title poem, the narrator wears “blue for luck” just as a bride might, but the narrator is “not significant enough/ to be a footnote.” while using drink to “dull the night’s toxic industry” for a man who doesn’t notice her non-sober state,
“There is no animal husbandry
in this meat factory.
I am disposable and new.
An emaciated mare
barely good for glue.”
To customers, this is merely a transaction, the state of the woman they’re paying irrelevant so long as they get what they’re paying for. The narrator is full of self-loathing, all too aware of her lack of power, lack of impact and apparent worthlessness.
“A Thirst for Rain” is after Rosemary Tonks, and starts,
“I have lived them, and lived them.
Swollen afternoons of seared skin
when nothing mattered more
than the crow’s love of bone
or the damselflies’ tangled rise
above idle water.”
Rosemary Tonks (1928 – 2014) authored two poetry collections, six novels and was chiefly active on the literary scene in the 1960s. She renounced literature in the 1970s and seemed pretty much forgotten until a collected poems, “Bedouin of the London Evening” was published in 2014. Her poems focused on urban, cafe scenes or undermining pretentious potential lovers. Their tone is conversational and dryly humoured. Anderson’s poem matches that atmosphere, where a narrator looks on a full life where all that mattered was the next meal, the next love.
“Killing Time in the Relatives’ Room” sees the narrator notice the carpet, “bright/ like buttered spinach”, a picture that includes a table “strewn with petals/ fallen from slumped poppies”, and
“Silent and observational,
a sombre blue bible
offers Good News
beside an empty box of tissues
and an unrung phone.
In this holding bay, news of quitters
arrives quietly on white shoes.”
The atmosphere is one of resignation, caught in a limbo between knowing what news will be brought and waiting for it to happen. In contrast, “I Was Once a Girl in a Fountain, Splashing a Boy” starts on a note of optimism, “I disperse old anxieties,/ push blue through layers of grey;” a determination that continues with “consider the violence/ of waves thrust upon canvas/ or words scratched on paper.” Until
“The water’s edge rushes
like the open mouth of a story—
all gush and foam—interrupts
a thought built from small bits of silence:
blood will slow and thicken in eddies
when I am least ready.”
A rush of creation that never arrives conveniently.
Rosemary Tonks is an apt source of inspiration and allusion in “Sin is Due to Open in a Room Above Kitty’s”. A collection that looks at family ties, seedier desires and needs, how the need to survive distorts relationships and afternoons of potential before dusk draws in. The poems have a buoyancy; they want to float off the page and be read so the sounds can be heard. Their subjects may be passive and/or powerless, but the poems bubble to the surface, drawing attention and leave barbs of startling images to be remembered after the book is closed.
Emma Lee’s The Significance of a Dress is available from Arachne Press. The link also has a trailer featuring the title poems and samples of some of the poems from the collection. It is also available as an eBook.