Night after Night in the Quiet House, Sarah HemingsThe full colour jacket is filled with a painting of a house which seems to rise out of clouds, and light shines from the front door. The title is in very large black lowercase font towards the foot of the jacket (in the clouds). Below this the author's name, also in black lower case, appears in a very small lowercase font. All text is right justified.

Maytree Press, 2022    £7.00

Through unrest to calmness

Just as Wednesdays are often the day which the week revolves, the Wednesday stanza of the title poem acts as a pivot for this pamphlet. By the time we reach that point we’ve dropped in on a variety of worlds that have been disrupted by death, the loss of a child, a new-born that can’t or won’t settle, a life taken over by someone almost against their will, chaotic lives and minds that are turbulent.

An example of this unease is found in ‘poem in which I wish my life were like water’. Here, the protagonist describes water being poured into a glass, and the way it

swishes and sashays
its see-through
skirts from
side to side
searching for
the shortest
route to still

The form of the poem mirrors the long, thin form of a stream of water poured from a tap or jug, switching between two and five syllables per line before it finally settles into one syllable for the last two lines, ‘but / calm’.

And it’s this calmness found in activity and observation that continues in the title poem as the poet thinks about her maternal grandmother and her ‘ancient Singer positioned to give her a panoramic view / across the lawns.’

From then on, things start to improve, and things feel positive. The restless child of the first half has become calmer in ‘Vestry’ — a Cornish dialect word for the smile of a sleeping child. This poem also, perhaps, recalls ‘Sculpted’ in the first half of the pamphlet, where we hear about a woman metaphorically having her ‘soft sad corners / chiseled flat’. In ‘Vestry’, however, the mother says

These days I yearn to cradle those sharp angles
and grace your perimeter with a kiss.

There’s a lot to unpack in those two lines, but mainly we are seeing a looking back, and a quiet acceptance of what someone has gone through to come out the other side.

Mat Riches