The Twilight Shift, David Keyworth

Wild Pressed Books, 2019    £4.50

Parallel worlds

These poems concern voyages from the everyday into the unknown — wishfulness, possibility, uncertainty, fantasy, spookiness. The imagined behind the mundane can be sparked by time, current strikes or maybe a contemporary craze.

The centre-page nine-liner, ‘West Street’, starts with ‘Flowers by the signpost […] / edge of the village Sunday evening’. The next three lines contain two unsettling verbs ‘fracturing’ (the quiet) and ‘scrapping’ (crows), at which point, white space between stanzas anticipates the shock of discovering the flowers are an offering to the memory of

a girl knocked over
coming home from school.

The visual picture is completely changed. The last line moves into the future, ‘hanging on the next message’.

The poem on the facing page (‘He married a Ghost’) houses a more exotic situation. A recycling fanatic allows his enthusiasm to take over his life. In the thrill of his addiction, he makes a trip to China where he marries a young bride. Not until the sixth stanza does he sweep up ‘confetti and turned leaves’ back in Stockport.

I specially like ‘Greyhound’, created in merely five lines (so many dimensions housed within so small a space). The poem takes me to the addictive appeal of the betting world. There’s even a future in the Duty Manager’s considering the next day’s ‘weather, while evening folds on itself’.

‘Slipstream’ begins more typically with economical, scattered facts: ‘Tuesday 8 a.m., pale moon, shutters rise’. This scene is interrupted by a ‘Missing-appeal on digital screen, aged 21’, followed by the musical phrases ‘Early risers, in first floor gyms, jump and / fall like salmon’. Somehow the first-person narrator lands up in Piccadilly station before finding a consoling ‘gap in the wall’ to palm trees and the memory of an old sweetheart.

The closing poem, ‘Future Proof’, takes the reader to a never-never land. Two negatives, ‘unmapped’ and ‘invisible’, suggest this parallel future may not be so different from the present, a present unstated but understood. Another five-liner, like ‘Greyhound’, it has subtle absurdity — every word apposite.

Sally Festing