Advice for an Only Child, Anja Konig
Flipped Eye Publishing, 2014 £4.00

What isn’t said

Loss looms large in this pamphlet. Much is not said, and its absence broods. Poetry finds itself in curtailment. Short lines and white space can be heart-breaking.

If not convinced of this, try ‘Saturday 6 am’ where the longest line consists of five monosyllabic words and the narrator sits down

on the chair
with the one
plate and the one
cup in front of [her]

and sees ‘the day / is mine / entirely.’

Only one plate, only one cup for an ‘only child’. The other person (the companion, the loved one, the sibling) is missing, but his/her absence is omnipresent. In ‘I Nearly Took the Twenty-Four Today’, absence is in the past, when the only child was not alone: ‘Remember the mould, the leak, the water bills, / the boiler. I thought we were unhappy then.’ Sometimes, of course, happiness is realised in retrospect. For example:

            when it snowed for three days and
I did not have to go to the airport.

It would be easy to write volubly about the absences. It would be easy to talk at length about the clarity that absence can create. But it would not be in the spirit of the original.

Instead, I’ll call in a couplet from one of my favourites, ‘Sight Seeing for Two’:

Here is Henrici’s, where we had the argument, where I find now
that a whole flammkuchen is too large for one person.

Here is life and loss. The pain of it. This is it, encapsulated and made plain. It is hard to bear but – you know what? – this pamphlet helps.

Helena Nelson