|Posted by Valerie Jack on February 1, 2010 at 12:00 AM||comments (13)|
Five boxes wide by eight,
two your rank and name,
two messages a week - one
mine, one for your Mum,
tucked brown in your locker
no grammar no commas no
complex feelings: dyed my hair
red got the job yay.
Great cracks, rats, these things
happen when you're at sea -
it's me who handles it.
Takes two weeks to knit
our lives together, third week's
lovely, by the fourth you're
out there in your mind,
I think just go then.
My mother tried to make
me understand, but being lonely
wasn't in my world – I
grew up in a pub,
not this big north-facing house.
Let's next time say bye
at the door. I can't
wave off the boat again.
In a cold bucket of
water vibrating on torpedo tubes,
you wash your pants, try
to find an empty bed
still warm from the one
before you, you read this...
I try to see you -
are you still the same?
It gets tedious boxing up
my week, into the void.
But you ticked the box
saying no bad news thanks -
why would you want it,
down there? So silence would
mean bad news, but here's
my good news: no news.
You left a baby who
had trouble rolling over. You'll
find him on a chair,
standing, apron round his middle,
sleeves at elbows, washing dishes,
and won't believe your eyes -
not your son, standing, washing,
not our own magic trick!
You'd be in a mess
of guys, the loneliest person
in the world - have to
break out the ballast brick
fruit cake I made to
stop the aching. That's how
I'm thinking of it now:
a long deployment, not dead.
Life aboard is often a life of prolonged separation from loved ones. This experience is lived at its extreme by Royal Navy submariners, who maintain the nuclear deterrent and submerge for three months at a time. The only communication these men receive is in the form of 40 word messages, known as familygrams. Because of the need to keep the sub’s position secret, the men cannot respond.
I wrote this sequence after discovering the interesting site www.seayourhistory.org.uk, on which I listened to women’s accounts of what it is like to love a submariner. I may also extend this series to include familygrams from fathers/brothers/sons/boyfriends of submariners, and it would be interesting to imagine what the submariners themselves may be thinking and feeling but unable to communicate.
I have used an experimental form in this sequence, the reasons for which I hope are made clear by the first poem. If any one has any comments on this, anything else about the sequence, or any suggestions for future poems please write something here. Thanks!
|Posted by Valerie Jack on December 27, 2009 at 1:08 PM||comments (0)|
The department wasn't where it used to be.
Break times had changed, but I got a third former
to show me where he'd be
and waited at the top of a fire escape
till he came up under an umbrella,
replied to my hello then looked up with good God.
He swapped classes with another teacher
to talk to me for half an hour.
He sat behind his desk asking
what had happened to various members of my year.
He caught me up with his life:
her father had died, which had been hard.
I sat on a table swinging my legs
and when the students started to arrive,
he walked across and mouthed piss off.
On the bus down to Temple Meads
I text a couple of friends to say
I'm still in love with him.
Substitute Mother Experiment
One of the monkeys gave off heat
and gave out milk, but was made of wire.
The other was covered in a soft cloth
and that was the one they clung to.
Talking to a Boy
I ask him how the ink tastes
he licks from his fingers, carefully.
You get used to it, he says,
when you have it every meal.
Then I wonder does it hurt
to break up driftwood with his hands?
Splinters? Under the nails?
That's nothing, he says. I used to bend
my nails all the way back here.
I don't think you should do that
I say, and he doesn't say anything.
So later I say I love that kid
and the teacher says
I used to love him too.
When he first came he tried
to rein the evil in
but it didn't last.
He started crouching
behind the cupboard -
that kind of thing.