These Nights at Home, Alex Reed

V.Press, 2018 £7.50

The spaces where grief lives

This collection is a powerful account of a life changing bereavement. It moved me deeply, resonating with my personal experience.

There is a slow, relentless engagement with inconsolable loss, with ‘the pacing hours’. Using white space, sparse lines, couplets, lists, prose and short sequences and a meditative pace, Reed infuses his writing with a persistent sense of loneliness, a wash of grief and a quest for the parted.

For example, the title poem ‘These nights at home’ tells us the couple’s daily habits, shared pleasures, a photograph, and attempts to move on. Then, ‘seil island’ speaks of such longing — ‘widower, a word I hate’ ­— and of the futility of capturing accurate memories with ‘my mind’s broken camera’.

The poem ‘imprint’ invokes the beloved in ghostly form and through personal possessions. Time passes but the grief persists — ‘vast, uncharted, rising’ — while ‘sun in an empty room’ tenderly brings the loss to life through a scene from the couple’s life, their chat

here, by the window
the desk where you write

The narrator listens for answering footsteps as he calls from the dark. All the doors she passed through open and close. She is gone, though the memory plays tricks with the light. ‘All the king’s horses and all the king’s men’ cannot put that shared life back together again.

In ‘When mourning reaches its cruising speed’, any recovery is measured in ‘those long pacing hours they say take years’.

The pamphlet successfully expresses this most personal challenge. The world keeps spinning and yet, for the narrator, it brims with the beloved’s existence in dreams, in hauntings, repeat sightings, in voids and lonely spaces, reminiscent of a Hopper painting.

Maggie Mackay