Grey cover with four fancy forks lying vertically on itFear of Forks, Hilary Menos

HappenStance Press, 2022     £7.00


Games, and conversations relating to them, caught my eye in some of the poems here. The placing of these, and the way in which they reflect or underline what else is happening, is of particular interest.

Lifeline’ recalls an occasion when the poet and her partner had to take a young son to A&E in France. He’s injured his thumb with a whittling knife, so ‘to distract and amuse him’ they:

                                          played Lifeline,
an interactive mobile phone game where Taylor
is stranded on a space station on the moon
and needs our help to find his way back home.

Help which Taylor and the injured child both get in this lovely, tender poem.

Later we are introduced to Fluxx: a game containing chance cards, some of which alter the rules even as the game is being played. There are various versions, with different settings. Menos & co have their favourite:

Sunday morning. Family time. Zombie Fluxx.
We’ve had eggs and coffee, and now more coffee.
We need a lot of coffee to play Zombie Fluxx, doughnuts too,
and a chainsaw and a baseball bat and a shotgun.
And a car and gasoline and a piece of four by two.

Soon the conversation turns to zombie apocalypses, stockpiling toilet paper, and rising numbers of Covid cases. (The altering of rules…?)

By contrast, Goûte Sel — which would have merited footnotes in the days before Google — manages to relate the taste of salt to zombies and a literacy project in Haiti.

In ‘Red Dress’ the family are discussing the nature of memory as they travel to a funeral collation. This leads to the question of whether or not zombies ‘repeat behaviour from their old lives / like the shopping zombies in Dawn of the Dead’. But ‘The boy says no, that’s not in the comics at all, zombies don’t / have memory, because memory is what makes us human, / see?’

Exactly so. And there is much evidence of memory doing just that throughout this highly intelligent, humane pamphlet.

Rob Lock