On the funeral road, five miles beyond the farm it looms still, like a silo, then diminishes as you get close. Your sound won’t raise alarm out here. There’s none but you. The wishes of no one left alive will keep you out, or let you in. The door is probably locked anyway, closed upon itself, redoubt for certainties. Surrounding it the block foundations — reservoirs of ice and weed — still cluster, like white holes around the heart. You will not try the door — where it might lead, you cannot say. The dead have done their part, for here you are among them once again, between the legacies of grief — the snow, the boxes of white quiet, the leaving, then the watching it loom larger as you go.
Brian Gavin writes: “I like this piece because the church-image haunted (or taunted!) me for several years before I got around to giving it some context in a poem. When it finally came to the page it felt like I had paid off a debt — like I had finally given the image a chance to tell its story. The fact that this story turned out to be no story at all — just a bunch of hints and implications — seemed to fit the image.“
Things, like people, in the business of decay
depend on trees. Within this latticed dusk
the wearying pretensions fall away
like flecks of paint from off a shrouded husk
of clapboard, and green stones spilling from a fence.
The house leans forward now, nails soft with rust —
it is the way an aged woman bends
forward in prayer, shapeless in shawl. There must
be trees beneath which things grow ripe and rot,
to be again with other things, in dreams —
old women at mass, men at bars, forgotten
things, distilled of story. Underneath the beams
the brush ebbs; all change is by degrees
of lessening – that is the work of trees.
Brian Gavin writes: “This poem ran a couple of years ago in The Road Not Taken: A Journal of Formal Poetry. I chose it because, for me anyway, the compelling thing about writing poetry is the way that a poem kind of leads the poet where it wants to go. With this poem, for example, I had absolutely no idea what it was going to be about. Then I started playing around with the image of the dilapidated house and the other images and rhymes until it seemed like the poem was satisfied!
I find writing this stuff to be most gratifying when the process plays out this way, and least gratifying when I try to tell the poem what to do.”
The launch of the third Potcake Chapbook brings us a passel of fresh Potcake Poets into the Sampson Low list, a couple of returning friends, and a slew of new art from Alban Low. Good news all round!
Careers! We’ve all had one or several of them, for better or worse. Marcus Bales and Daniel Galef review the frustrations of shopfloor sales and professions, while Annie Drysdale gives an exhilarating view of farmwork. From the newcomers (Gerry Cambridge, Martin Elster, Brian Gavin, Susan McLean, Rob Stuart, Tom Vaughan and Mindy Watson) we have everything from office workers and cafe proprietors to a madame ageing out of her profession and a hangman lamenting his obsolescence.
But really, there are no “newcomers” here. As always, the chapbook features poets who are very well-known as well as extremely skillful and experienced with formal verse.
And whether the writing of verse should be considered a career, or merely another catastrophe… well, that’s for future discussion.
Meanwhile, enjoy this for a couple of quid or have a copy mailed to someone who needs a fresh perspective on life.