Winter with Eva, Elaine Baker
V. Press, 2020 £6.50
When reading a pamphlet is like watching a play
This is a love story so sensual that you can smell autumn leaves on the ground and taste snow on your lips. You may well read this in one sitting because it’s like watching a studio theatre production.
Two seasons; two people. Elaine Baker tells it like it is in modern Britain. Sean is British, has a dog; a flat; a job. Eva is Romanian, looking for a place to belong. At the park, she speaks to the dog first. Sean says to Eva in ‘Beginning’, ‘The dog looks long, / looks deep / into your eyes.’ Which sets up a love triangle.
But triangles bring in outsiders. Who else and what else can possibly intrude?
The stage could be Sean’s street strewn with crisp packets, where a cat prowls in front of the Polish corner shop. Sean addresses Eva in almost every poem and some big questions are asked: ‘you want to know if I can give enough...’ Others are implicit. How does love work? What do we need?
Everyday communication is not always straightforward — banter at the office water cooler; chat while buying tomatoes. There are two cultures to consider and observers with opinions. It’s this mixture of words and meanings and connotations which adds depth to the poetry, and tension to the story.
The Christmas poems are my favourite. In ‘Milk’, we share their intimate days between Christmas and New Year — where ‘Unopened / Christmas post / is banking up’. In ‘Whiteout’, the couple play in the park in the middle of the night:
[you] slip snow in my mouth, a white wafer.
I do the same, after you,
and you say
this is our promise:
Their private and spontaneous ceremony — then the lusty ‘hot soles all the way back’ to the flat for the honeymoon. Elaine Baker’s visually surprising images are a joy.
Can this relationship last? Will Eva be accepted into this community? You won’t leave the theatre with all the answers.