Dressed and Sobbing, Selima Hill
Fair Acre Press, 2022 £7.50
Why, I wondered as I read, do the non-human creatures in these poems only have supporting roles? In ‘Orange Juice’, for example, it is the dead of night and there are owls ‘watching / replete with mouse-blood’. But all they are allowed to do is watch. They have no lines.
And in the poem ‘What’s That Hand Doing In My Sock’, I longed for more than ‘the grunts of pigs transported into Paradise.’ I wanted hams and hocks; a frank exposé of porcine body-image issues; pig beliefs regarding a supreme deity.
I was less intrigued by the women ‘who live in lonely cottages in woods / who feed on roots, / who scream’ (in the poem ‘Naughty Girls in Dark Woods’) than in the goats these women marry. Do young goats as well as old goats desire such unions, and if they marry for love, does it last?
In fact, before reading Dressed and Sobbing, I’d never considered the love-life of goats of any age, or of ants. But my heart went out to the ants and the possibility that
maybe they are thinking Oh my God,
I’ll never find true love
before it’s over,
before some robin stabs me to death.
And, while I don’t have a rock-chick bone in my body, I wanted — like the groupie of a rock band — to meet the inspiration for the simile describing something that, the poet tells us, is
busy in my chest
like a rat
that’s made its nest inside me,
in my ribs,
a rat without a face.
[‘Lying on my Back in the Dark’]
I wanted to meet this rat who has no face and learn how he or she lives from day to day with no eyes, nose or mouth.
But most of all, I wanted to meet and discuss trust with the ox whose eye was the inspiration for the lines:
as trusty as the eye of an ox,
as trusty and as limpid
means the way it sounds as if it should.
My late father had similar eyes. But I digress.