Apple, Fallen, Olga Dermott-Bond

Against the Grain Poetry Press, 2020    £6.00

Tapping the glass

Apple, Fallen is, among other things, a pamphlet about distance — the distance travelled by the falling apple, perhaps? Heck, the second poem is even called ‘always a distance’.

But it’s also about distance in terms of separation. The opening poem features a 17th century axe encased behind glass in a museum. ‘Glad of the distance between us’, the poet’s tone darkens, thinking about the uses the axe could have been put to:

I picture a neck exposed, pink sinews propped
like a stick of snapped rhubarb gleaming

with a graze of sugar beads before boards darken,
splinters stained again with a body spilled over.

Sometimes the separation and distance are more figurative. In ‘An Alternative Terminal’, there’s a conversation with a departed father in an airport the poet has ‘built [ ... ] with ink’. There’s a closeness in this poem, and the one before it, that’s missing from the rest of the pamphlet (this is not a bad thing, just an observation). Nevertheless, separation makes its (lack of) presence known at the end of the poem:

We make sure everything is declared. Like love.
Passengers only beyond this point. You wave.

In ‘FOMO’ (Fear of Missing Out), a person is (I think deliberately), separating themselves from flatmates:

They clatter back in high heels, short skirts, espresso dregs of eye makeup,
knock up fried egg sandwiches, spill milk; leaving me clinging
to their curdling sticky smell upstairs in my cardboard room.

However, despite this separation, the flatmates find a way to stay whether they are wanted or not. The poem closes with:

They linger under my skin as I wash up their dead plates.

Olga Dermott-Bond might be the sort of person who can’t resist tapping on the glass at zoos — not out of malice, but just to see what happens, and to try and reduce the distance between herself and the thing or creature she’s looking at.

Whatever her tactics, it works. No ‘dead plates’ were involved when I read these poems, but they have ‘linger(ed) under my skin’.

Mat Riches