Soft Touch, Louise G. Cole
smith/doorstop, 2019 £7.50
Soft Touch is Louise G. Cole’s first pamphlet and is full of memories of family members, observed with a gentle wry humour.
Cole doesn’t hold back. There’s a directness in her poetry and the memories are vivid.
‘Fur Coat and No Knickers’ traces a conversation with a mother suffering from dementia, mixing a gentle humour with the irony of finally listening to something her daughter has said.
‘Soft Touch’, the poem that gives the pamphlet its title, is a gentle remembrance of the sensation of touch and the way it links to memory across the years, from the babygro of infancy to lovers and tight boxer shorts, ending with the down-to-earth bump of ‘grey polishing cloths / formerly known as clothing.’
‘Dirty Little Dresses’ remembers a child always returning from playgroup and school with a dirty dress, in contrast with the perfect girl ‘in impossibly white cotton frocks, pretty, pristine / seldom up for finger painting and sandpitting’, whilst her own daughter was ‘messy and wild, / hand painted, squashed and sandpapered’. There’s a quiet satisfaction when the pure white princess mutates into a Goth at secondary school and the ‘pushy mother’ disappears from the social radar.
‘Watermarked’ feels like an affectionate tribute to a much loved father, likened here to a grey heron with its ‘two tone grey’ and a ‘slick black-backed comb over’ who can be found ‘watching calmly without comment’.
‘Beacon’ is a gentle lament for the loss of childhood, symbolised here in a lighthouse-shaped stone, remembering the time when ‘I wondered if the keeper was lonely / alone on top of cliffs or far out at sea’. And in later years another pebble
weighs down a tower of poems
lamenting your loss […]
It’s a piece of rock, but not the same
now you’re gone.