Painting of a woman coming out of the sea in a long dress, with a big hen on the shore, and chalk cliffs behind. Black lettering on white at topEvidence of Love, Marion Tracy

The Frogmore Press, 2021    £5.00

Innocence and experience

This slender collection assembles small details, suggestions, images – like proof that there’s something bigger than them – what can it be? Together the poems invoke that great abstract concept  love and interrogate its nature. What evidence can be brought to bear of its existence? What evidence can be borne?

Often the poems deal in ideas that are so close to incommunicable that their truth seems to hang just out of reach. In ‘Telling Someone You Love’, we learn that

What’s concealed inside
the mouth is ceremonial,

a last candle
hidden behind the altar

The word ‘ceremonial’ is a wonderful mouth-word: you can feel it with the lips and tongue, something experienced and yet unspoken. The reading is sensuous and mysterious.

In ‘Arborglyph’, where the speaker carves initials of the loved one into the bark of a tree, the act is:

Making a declaration of love

In the absence of my true love

So ‘true’ love does exist, it would appear, but at the same time it is lost or absent. Meanwhile, the tree ‘heals itself / from unwanted wounds’, calling in the idea of damage and repair.

This idea returns in ‘Kintsukuroi’, the Japanese art of reassembling broken china into: ‘A beautiful exhibition of wounds’. So what we seem to be finding is love with damage. Love expressed where it will not be heard or seen. Love that blooms in ‘Kintsukuroi’ despite damage to the planet itself (‘our blue home’).

There’s doubt here, cynicism, questioning and loss; but also there’s possibility and joy.

The concluding poem (‘The Parts of Love’) is an affirmation. It suggests that earlier songs of experience (like ‘Memories of Rain’ and ‘Womb’ and ‘Bride’) don’t rule out new songs of innocence. Uncomplicated love and trust can, it seems, be recovered:

                 we [ ... ] lie together,
our innocent eyes, like gentle stars,
gazing at each other with no dread.

Helena Nelson