Never Wear White, Susan Darlington
Alien Buddha Press, £8.45 2022
What is noticeable about these poems is how disconcerting they are; or more accurately, how disconcerting I found them. At first, I thought it was because I disagreed so vehemently with Susan Darlington that ‘The art of childlessness / is a matter of semantics.’ I disagreed that it is ‘not about being child-less’ and
It’s not about being less of anything.
It’s about being child-free.
Free to spend time dancing
until the heart-light dawn.
Finding your own rhythms
that are giddy, raw and real,
knowing that no matter what,
alone, you are complete.
[‘The Art Of Childlessness’]
I am a childless person and I especially disagreed with the final couplet.
Then I disagreed again with the same statement of sentiment at the end of ‘Blue Line’, a poem in which the pregnancy test refused to show a positive result. The line grew longer each month
until it stretched
across the Atlantic
and you followed it home.
The line of vapour
broke apart; faded
into an azure sky
releasing the knowledge
I was enough.
Then I noticed that — while the poems both end with much the same statement — the pronouns were different. Now I realised that what was disconcerting me was the way Susan Darlington’s, calm, non-judgemental statements were making me face my own truths and limitations. Yes, you … and you … and you … may be complete alone, but no, I am not — for all kinds of reasons.
The same two pronouns appear again at the end of another poem, ‘Sarah’ which is about being ‘friends of convenience’:
And I wish you were here so that I could say sorry
I never really knew you and that after we drifted apart
I barely even noticed your absence until now.
Again, the closing sentiment is about absence, and again, I was disconcerted. Disconcerted by the absence of a ‘you’, from whom I have also drifted apart and to whom I wish I could say, ‘Sorry’, and ‘Every day I notice you are absent’.