If All This Never Happened, Vicky Morris
Southword Editions, 2021 £6.00
The acceptance of a life
This collection of lyric poems is a chronological map of the poet’s life. It doesn’t shy away from the realities of that life but seems to set out that everything has been a building block to where she now is — hence the title.
The vivid domestic sketch in ‘Where We Used to Live’ brings us in to the early years in a close-knit community:
Just down from the stilted house
where a woman strangled her daughter
with a pair of tights, and the posh guy
Dad sold his car to, who did his girlfriend
in with a brick.
It moves on to suggest, should we see people outside our own homes taking photos on their phones, they may be reminiscing ‘about the lives they once lived in your home’. In ‘The Scab’ we hear the poet’s relief at moving on, leaving behind an awkward time at school and a challenging home life, ‘being chased by knuckles and a mop’.
‘Sea Road’ sees her as a pre-teen via that universal — though less often spoken about — lens of the time in a girl’s life when she realises she is in danger without being sure why:
Remember the man
who stopped his car, not once but twice, pretended to fiddle
behind a torch-lit bonnet, and you saw his open fly
Of course, she doesn’t tell anyone.
For me ‘Traffic’ is the crown of the collection, contrasting directly with ‘German Train’ on the opposite page — that tells of how she wishes her mind was organised, efficient, with ‘a screen charting where you’re going and where you have come from’. ‘Traffic’ is the more chaotic reality, a life that has now grown into itself, and with the realisation
that you’ve spent your whole life
concealing her as best you could
starting with the unwritten rules
for little girls from rundown homes
The poem goes on to conclude:
Let her stand up now. See her.
Here she is. Here.
And here she is, a skilled and empathetic poet reflecting on her own life to draw universal truths on inequality, gender, patriarchy, self-reflection and acceptance. Highly recommended.