The Cold War, Tristan Moss

Lapwing Publications, 2022    £10.00

The gravity of the situation

Before you’ve even opened The Cold War, the title is already suggesting the idea of constant threat. However, despite the threat that’s woven throughout — the threat of parents arguing, of death, of poverty and more — what really stands out for me here is a feeling of thwarted velocity.

In the opening piece (‘Remembering Something I Should Have Practiced’), the poet recalls how once he would hold a limb up in the air and 'slowly forget / that I was holding it there’, before noting that if he’d continued this practice ‘one day I might fly’. Perhaps it seems to churlish to ask what someone might want to fly for, but in the context of the rest of the publication, you certainly sense flying might offer an escape route.

But perhaps the poet is not the only one wanting to escape. In 'Gravity' we’re told ‘When a child / my dad dreamt / of being a spaceman’, before the poem explores what it was that stopped him. Whether this was a fear of flying or a denial of the science behind flight, ultimately it comes down to a different kind of ‘force’ in the final stanza:

So maybe it wasn’t
weight he feared,
but challenging
the force
that kept him
for so many years
on the ground.

There are many further examples of the impact of Moss’s parents on him. However, the final lines of the closing poem, ‘A Space In The Trees’, has a curtailment of gravity, while at the same time ending on a high note:

But for today, I think back
to when there were fields,
open skies and a farm,
where my father looked up
from chopping wood
and smiled at me.

Mat Riches