3 minutes reading time (674 words)

WHY I LIKE THIS POEM

(or actually fell in love with it the first time I saw it).

First: it’s a great title. (‘The door has been open for some time’) It’s a first-line title that draws me right in there. So restrained. Casual. Not thrusting itself in your face at all. Not in the least poem-ey.

But the sentence begun by that title pulls me in, and it draws me through to the end of line five. Two stanzas. ‘The door has been open for some time

but I would rather stay here
with my candle and husk of bread

keeping watch over the setting silt,
counting how many layers of stone
are needed to make a wall.’

And I’m reading this, and I’m thinking, ‘this is about me’. Yes, the door’s open, and here I am still sitting here. And that candle and husk of bread is me too: me in my little perilously safe space, watching the silt build up. (I adore that ‘setting silt’. It was going to be ‘the setting sun’ in my mind, which would have been romantic and beautiful, but it turned to silt. How I love that ‘silt’!)

Some people are sent to prison by powers greater than themselves. Others create their own. But you don’t need me to explain that. The metaphor is dead plain and open to inhabit. Or not. Perhaps there are even people who have never been inside this space.

Oh but then the poem offers up its final couplet, and it makes me laugh:

Who knows what the light is like out there
or whether they have bakers.

Those lines are making me chortle at myself, because isn’t that me? At home I can make my own bread, right to the last stale crust. Goodness knows what the bread’s like in the real world. But if the last word were just ‘bread’, it might be somewhat biblical, staff-of-life stuff. Instead, it’s ‘bakers’, which is (to me) somehow funnier. More like the depressed cast of Friends eating Ben & Jerry’s. More like a good Federation of Bakers factory.

And that bleak hopelessness is so beautifully parodied in the last two lines: ‘who knows what the light is like out there’ – nine damp monosyllables puddling into place. Then it swings into the last line where ‘whether’ and ‘baker’s’ somehow seal the verdict. It’s one of those poems that sounds right, to me, from start to finish. Sad and funny and applicable to so many situations.

So I put it on the flyer for the pamphlet in which it appears, namely Rosie Miles’s Cuts. Besides, it seemed to me apposite in another way too, especially for a debut publication. Many poets are desperately keen to get a first pamphlet into print – of course they are. It can be the culmination of many years of work. But at the same time, it’s really scary. Poets sometimes even put off the publication date, or delay longer than they need to. I have worked with a number of writers like this. Who knows what the light’s like out there? Who knows what may happen when other people approach with flashlights?

But poems need light. They are, among other things, communications, and readers need light in order to see them and respond.

Rosie Miles launches Cuts tomorrow (June 1) in the Arena Theatre of the University of Wolverhampton, where she’ll be reading with Liz Berry at 7.30 pm. What a splendid combination! At 6.30, Stephanie Green will be doing the Edinburgh launch of Flout at Looking Glass Books in Edinburgh. So it’s a very launchy day tomorrow.

Who knows what the light is like out there?

Only one way to find out.

 

The door has been open for some time

but I would rather stay here
with my candle and husk of bread

keeping watch over the setting silt,
counting how many layers of stone
are needed to make a wall.

Who knows what the light is like out there
or whether they have bakers.


[Rosie Miles, from Cuts]

b2ap3_thumbnail_heart-knives.jpg

 

WHAT THE TICKLE RHYME TAUGHT ME
THE GIFT
 

Comments 1

Guest - Frances Corkey Thompson on Sunday, 31 May 2015 11:45

That is one perfect and lovely metaphor from start to finish
. It's where I am right now, counting stones, doing those things, a bit wary of that door. Thank you Rosie. Thank you, Nell.

That is one perfect and lovely metaphor from start to finish . It's where I am right now, counting stones, doing those things, a bit wary of that door. Thank you Rosie. Thank you, Nell.
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Saturday, 19 September 2020

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