Being Haunted, Jennifer Copley
Cinnamon Press, 2019 £4.99
Jennifer Copley can make a parallel world — in which the dead co-exist with us, sharing our domestic routines — seem entirely normal. She can make me feel that if I turn round fast enough I’ll catch a glimpse of them, slipping behind the curtains or stealing the dog’s food. The dead have bodies — clumsy ones — and also the small, spiteful habits they had in life. We may have loved them but none of them were saints.
She’s done something not unlike this before. In Living Daylights (HappenStance, 2011) the dead move in upstairs, like difficult guests who meddle with the household and its electrics, who leave a mess everywhere. Those dead are real — or should that be ‘real’? Liminal entities, perhaps? Whatever we call them, for good or bad they’re with us.
In ‘Being Haunted’, the title poem in this pamphlet, she continues the same theme —
How scatterbrained the dead are.
We are forever picking up their stuff: spectacles,
the tea strainer, a small black paring knife.
And they watch us. This isn’t a one-way relationship, although there’s no conversation as such — just the prickling sense of being observed:
How nosy the dead are.
They peer round the wardrobe
as we lie in bed. They watch us sleep.
One of them goes through our In Box
to find out what we’ve ordered for Christmas —
handcuffs, racy underwear, a chewy slipper.
So ordinary: so unreal. Surreal, perhaps? But it’s not quite that, either. Somehow, it just is. I believe the poet, I believe in the dead, and even how their computer skills have been honed in the wherever-they-are.
It’s the small details that get under my skin. Look at that ‘small black paring knife’ above. I still use my mother’s paring knife, 29 years after her death. But more than that, the knife still carries the scratches from when my father sharpened it; he died 49 years ago. It’s still sharp from that. As sharp as memory, as haunting.
D A Prince