The Deal, Annie Fisher

HappenStance Press, 2020   £5.00

People in 'The Deal'

Memorable characters are a highlight of The Deal. ‘In Hiding’, for example, introduces childhood memories of a father who ‘popped out every night / to see a man about a dog’:

and my mother
who saw Christ in every soul
played nocturnes
on the out-of-tune piano in the hall.

Then there are ‘the tall girls / sleek as swans’ in ‘Small’:

how I envied
the beautiful maps of their limbs
extending from Land’s End
to distant ice-blond Arctic.

This ability to capture people opens up some powerful territory, as in the sinister childhood memories of ‘The Gate’, where ‘Uncle Paul came / with red roses for our mother, / the darkest red, / the sweetest-ever scent’:

He’d crook his yellow finger,
croaking foreign words like some ancient
wrinkled frog
from down the well.

Meanwhile, Sister Ursula (‘as plump and reassuring / as a steamed pudding’) is wonderfully evoked in ‘Cold War Supper’ as she introduces her pupils to pigeon for the first time:

‘Chew carefully girls,’ Sister Ursula said with a wink,
doling out unctuous ladles of alien meat.
‘Spit out anything hard; any nuggets or grit.’

She then goes out to shoot a brace of the offending birds:

‘Communists! Heretics!’ she mutters.
‘I can hear what you’re plotting – A coup! A coup!
I’ll give you something to coo about!’

‘A Hotel Restaurant’ perfectly captures the ‘round-bellied corporate frogs / dispatching coffee and full English / with their long elastic tongues’ and ‘two Saga iguanas / […] lipping sweet, stewed fruit / and honeyed yogurt’.

The poet’s wry humour is evident, too, in ‘Insurance Plan’ with its perennially disappointed protagonist:

Let-downs ambushed him throughout his life —
the taste of fresh-perked coffee; aubergines;
live albums; picnics; Camembert; his wife.

‘The Jungle Waits Outside, My Best Beloved’ reveals depths in the encounter between grandparent and nine-year-old ‘extraordinary’ grandchild on a visit to the zoo.

Finally, ‘The Orange Lobster And The Hens’ (complete with pop anthem soundtrack) is a hilarious account of a train journey where a hen party in ‘kitten heels’ and Donald Trump (in the guise of an orange lobster) collide to surreal and pointedly political effect. These are characters not to be missed!

Graeme Ryan