Fleet, Paul O’Prey
The Melos Press, 2021 £5.00
The Earth replies
We often speak of the fact that now, in the midst of a heatwave, following wildfires in North America and floods in Europe, the planet is in crisis. However, we rarely get to listen as the planet speaks back to us. In Fleet, however, this is exactly what happens.
These poems focus on a world said to be ‘lost’. Yet to this day, it is alive under North London streets. On occasion, the two worlds touch fingertips. For example, in ‘Slave Song’, the speaker writes:
I put my ear to a small iron grate
to hear the buried river sing […]
from this concrete dungeon
comes the chatter of any river
tripping on itself, urgent for the ocean.
To me, this spoke of a place determined to have its say, despite being all but forgotten by humanity.
The Green Man, a pagan symbol of rebirth, appears on two occasions in the pamphlet’s narrative. The first mention is in ‘Green Man Falling’; the second in ‘Green Man Rising’.
In the first of these, we see the Green Man ‘slumped like a drunk across the compost heap’, in a ‘quiet, prosperous’ area where neighbours ‘shooed him gently away’.
In ‘Green Man Rising’, however, a reported sighting of the Green Man depicts him with ‘kingly robes, [which] glistened in the morning sun’. We watch him rejuvenate, transforming from a broken tramp to a king, despite ‘the caging and the starving, the naming, / blinding, poisoning and possessing’.
In Fleet’s closing poem, ‘Flood Tide’, which follows ‘Green Man Rising’, the quiet and simple declaration ‘It holds no grudge’ further brings home the remarkable truth that Earth always forgives us by regrowing.
This pamphlet is ‘an empty shell whelk pressed to the ear’, a mouthpiece for Earth’s song.