What If?, June Hall
Grey Hen Press, 2021 £4.00
Lived experience crafted, contained, conveyed
This honest, open and crafted pamphlet outlines the poet’s journey following a diagnosis of early onset Parkinson’s disease, and much more. She uses skill and humour to take us into the heart of her life, her disease and her family. Although living with it, she always manages to be one step away from the Parkinson’s itself, slightly objective, fighting its taking over or defining her. In ‘We Two’, she writes:
I can imagine folding to my care
this other who is now — my self.
The poet employs a number of ‘characters’ to describe herself under the power of the condition. We meet Mrs Muddles, Mrs Dribbles, Mrs Wobbly. This is from ‘Mrs Wobbly Is Fed Up’:
Mrs Wobbly, friend to Mrs Dribbles, is sick of falls, breakages,
not sleeping. Sick of balance routines, dribbling, a leaky bladder
She tells us about how she is worried about leaving her children too early, missing them growing up. ‘Untimely’ reads:
The time is out of synch like a match
that burns too fast, searing fingers
when the flame goes out, candles not yet lit.
And the physical sensations from the disease are vividly conveyed in ‘Shivers’:
Small shakes play grandmother’s footsteps, creep up on
the decades. Full-grown, they co-habit – skin-twitching,
hand-rolling, foot-jerking-squatters who won’t go away.
The final poem, ‘Funny Devices’, left me with a strong sense of June Hall’s determination, character and undented humour. Here’s an extract:
seduce my man on satin sheets in shiny pyjamas
designed to help the helpless turn in their adjustable beds;
a user of funny devices. Not me. Not yet
The poems largely employ form — there are villanelles, and poems with balanced couplets, tercets and quatrains — which reflects most beautifully how the poet is containing and managing the condition herself.