Cream cover with black lettering and black drawing of a figure stretchingThe Waking Hour, Maureen Weldon

Red Squirrel Press, 2021    £6.00

Pared down to the core

The poems in The Waking Hour are as spare as any I have read. It is astonishing how much can be conveyed in this way. In the poem ‘Divided’, two people are separated by an ocean:

you on the red side
me on the green.

Like an apple
our secret lives
in the core.

There is time and space for the apple to emerge before it is named, just like a thought emerges and takes form.

In the first poem in the pamphlet which is the title poem we are told ‘take heed / moments of truth are in the waking hour.’ The pamphlet in one sense is a collection of ‘moments of truth’ as in ‘I Could Never Eat Bananas’:

Allergies can change over years
so too can love.

But the pamphlet also grapples with uncertainty. In ‘Half-Way House’:

        half the lights are turned out
and laughter peels off the walls.
and reality is born — clinging
to hope by a thin silver thread.

Here in just seven short lines and a very effective title is a solid and graphic picture of a state of mind that for me is recognisable but very difficult to pin down.

The poems do not shy away from narrative. In ‘This is War — Firth of Forth 1942’ a father leaves to board ‘a waiting troop ship’. The mother is distraught but there is a child who ‘peels tiny strips of wallpaper’ and seems happy after the father has left. This opens the door to a fascinating story which has stayed in my mind, perhaps because it is not fully explained.

The central poems touch on love, loss and its fallout. I particularly enjoyed ‘Husband’:

‘ loss is ferocious,’ she tells me.

‘You would understand,
wouldn’t you?’

‘Yes,’ I say. Remembering…

I do not feel as she.

How easy it is for people to ‘get it wrong’ when they commiserate with us and how wonderful to allow ourselves angry thoughts about this! I certainly felt I had found truths at the core of these simple poems. 

Anne Bailey