Flarestack Publishing, 2007 - £3.00
At first glance such a slight pamphlet—a sequence of 21 short poems, one only a couplet, and each one headed by lines from the children’s rhyme ‘One two/ buckle my shoe’. It’s illustrated, too: childlike drawings of houses, with crayon colour, and a sketch map of Britain, chopped off at Glasgow and missing out London.
It starts so simply: “I drop in/ and out of my mother’s womb/ at Railway Road, so I’m told.” At one level the sequence stays simple, mapping a life through house moves, but there are other levels, showing the texture of a life bumping unevenly along. When her mother’s new husband fails to show up for the wedding, for example, the child records: “I make paper people in paper clothes.” With the family squeezed into a one-bedroomed flat: “I make a mask like the white clown I saw at the circus.”
For Pat Morgan, life lies in the detail. She describes her work: “... I teach teenagers with experienced teeth/ how to use their hands and eyes” and captures their streetwise menace. Then a relationship with ‘Dracula’ unsettles her briefly ordered existence—“Connection to day job,/ rent money and a place in the world/ stops.” Her family expands (“Now we are five and banished to a pig sty/ disguised as a bungalow”) and the rentals continue (“the place where I lose my crucifix behind the rayburn”) before “We volcano temporarily into The Old Hall”; the changes are conveyed through compact images of turbulence and displacement. Finally (“my plate’s empty”) she’s “Boxed in a grey room with its corners pulled out sharply”, and everything works with nursing-home efficiency. Life has come full circle—“and I find the place I lost in the dark.”
I love this pamphlet—its wit, its salt flavour, its economy, its cleverness with language, the sense of geography. I’ve been carrying it round in my bag to show to friends—and the map deserves a review all of its own.