Nullaby, Patrick Wright
Eyewear Lorgnette, 2017 £6.00
The stuff of nightmare
There are many nightmarey features in these densely detailed poems, a sense of madness, illness, darkness, a broken relationship, a former lover fragmenting.
In ‘The Ghost Room’ — ‘Nowhere is anything sane — and this is us, the room / built on schisms.’
In the title poem, ‘Nullaby’, ‘there’s nothing / to find sane this red-eyed morning — / the upped dimmer-switch of dawn’.
But what spooked me most was ‘The Thing’. This ‘thing’ (in italics) appears in two poems on facing pages. The first is titled ‘Spider’ and the thing seems to be a spider’s web. Except it’s more than that, more frightening than that:
Since in the middle of that mass of neither
vegetable nor mineral — up by the lintel —
a white hole portends nothing
but a sudden quickening.
In ‘The Thing’, the thing is no spider. It’s much bigger. It has ‘tentacles’ and ‘appendages’. This dream-poem (I hope) begins, cleverly, ‘Waking fully, what it was was a thing, / a black tentacled thing, coming at me, smothering me.’ It is not the speaker who is fully awake as we first think, it is the thing. In seven sibillant stanzas, the poet creates the scene, the attack, the horror-show experience. It’s brutally vivid —
I pushed off its mandibles.
It wanted my lips, my tongue, to be complete.
The denouement arrives when the thing sees itself reflected in the window, vomits and vanishes. Here are the last three lines:
‘For now,’ I said, ‘I’ve won.’
The room listened, played mute witness.
Inside the body’s catacombs it sleeps like an angel.
What a brilliantly sinister last line! It haunts me yet.