black cover with white writer and a paragraph sign and cursorpoems for my fbi agent, Charlotte Geater

Bad Betty Press, 2020     £6.00

Blurring boundaries

FBI agents dress in anonymous suits, and gather information, using modern technology: cameras, software, schematics, right? But what if you had a dedicated agent following you around? Would you act differently? Then, turning it around: could watching the watcher teach you anything?

Each of Charlotte Geater’s poems offers a different perspective on life with her agent, all digging deeper than the quirky titles might indicate. In fact, so much time together means the boundaries between familiarity, friendship and intimacy blur. This paints an interesting picture.

Early on in the pamphlet comes the title ‘my FBI agent grows familiar’ — cutting straight to the message: ’we’re not friends. he knows me better / than that.’ And then a telling question: ‘do i make it into your dreams?’

Geater’s non-linear style sends the reader into a whirl, asking ‘who does he text when he’s lonely?’ in the poem ‘my FBI agent is a mathematical problem’; through a conversation about facebook ad settings; dropping down into a night in a pub in Leytonstone. Towards the end of the pamphlet, in ‘my FBI agent takes me on a date’, the agent is now a woman who ‘decorates her hair with crane flies’; who ‘pries me open early’ ‘& she eats from within’. Intimate? I’d say so.

What follows is ‘my FBI agent raises a toast’, which could be celebratory, but the words grow dark and confining:

may your house always be
too small / to follow

may your coffin / live all the days
of your life

This poem circles around friendship in a curiously repetitive way, like a villanelle gone astray. The house, the glass raised in the toast, the days of a life, and the coffin all appear twice. The toast to friendship is faltering and incomplete, but no less poignant for that:

may we never be / as close as
not enough days / friends

What shines through is how fragile true intimacy is. For me, this collection is about how well we know ourselves — and who we might choose to spend our time with.

Candyce Lange