Collision, Claire Walker
Against The Grain Poetry Press, 2019 £6.00
Hands and collisions
We tend to think of collisions as big moments. There’s noise, and things get broken or changed. A collision between cars, for example, tends to change things for both the drivers and the cars. The Large Hadron Collider is currently doing its thing beneath Cerne, and will eventually change our understanding of — well — everything.
However, clapping could be considered a smaller, and perhaps more enjoyable form of collision. And quite frankly, hands are all over the pages of this collection, either through explicit or implicit references. The explicit outweigh the implicit by a ratio of four to ten, but it’s what’s implied that I’d like to focus on.
In ‘Like a Lover’ we hear about the other woman who ‘pools around their bodies, / works their ring fingers free of knots’. In the following poem, ‘A Tattooist’s Mistake’, the reference is subtle — ‘supple in the twist of your arm’ — but arguably the whole poem is ruled by hands. What else does a tattooist use, apart from a needle?
In ‘Jet’, talk is of ‘So much mourning’ and the way grief can stay with us. ‘We fold it into our rosaries, / each bead a black prayer / shovelled through aching fingers’. There’s also a bonus mention of wrists later.
The final implicit mention is in the title poem where a boat has been abandoned after an accident. The protagonists ‘reach for splintered oars’, and later on for one another (blame is being considered):
Neither of us mentions our clumsiness
when we reach for each other in the dark;
When we can’t meet each other’s eyes
in the stumble of morning.
And in a very different poem about the fossil collector, Mary Anning, these lines appear:
I gather the coast; hidden art waits
for my fingers to unfold rocks.
Every syllable of those lines feels to me like part of the pamphlet’s mission statement.
I suggest you put your hands together, both in the air and in your pockets, for this collection.