Photo of a room with an orange institutional chair. Title lettering like newspaper cut outsSin is Due to Open in a Room Above Kitty’s, Morag Anderson

Fly on the Wall Press, 2021    £6.99

Searching for mercy

In this pamphlet, Morag Anderson writes powerfully about violence using visceral language. The poems gather a strength which speaks of injustice and mental illness. Hit by the explicit cruelty, they could be hard to stomach and, at times, I felt I was flying into a cliff face.

The poem ‘Two Doors Down’ is the first in the collection and sets the tone. It relates the horrific behaviour of a sexual predator. He’s the ‘daftest dad of our street,’ plausible until uncovered:

No-one collected his ashes.
They believe
he is burning yet.

In the title poem the narrator tells her desolate story of isolation and abuse. The world is an unforgiving enemy. She dulls her nights as a sex worker with alcohol while wearing ‘blue for luck’ and despising her client, ‘a rotting carcass’:

There is no animal husbandry
in this meat factory.
I am disposable and new.
An emaciated mare
barely good for glue.

‘Shaping Words’ appears to be a love poem and yet there’s an underlying tension. The night brings the narrator ‘close / to honesty / not shared in daylight’ while her partner sleeps. The words ‘quieten’ and ‘soften’ are followed by images of ‘the wet caramel / of the tree’s rotting stump.’ There is no respite; in hope, and aware of likely pain:

I curve to your back
as a hand cups a flame.

The poem ‘DNR’ begins with lyrical images such as ‘the night succumbs to copper,’ ‘condensed light, distant as heather honey’. The mood ‘changes tack’ in the fourth stanza as death closes in:

The music of monitors
steps up a pace. A timpani
slows, then holds low C.
I run cold water to drown
the sound of relief.

The penultimate poem ‘Kintsugi’ spills over with beautiful lines and is my favourite poem in the pamphlet. It’s a lament poem which celebrates love. Bees’ weight, golden hoops combine with the marvellous image of the heat of the living transferring to the late beloved 

            ploughing through ice fields,
                   sealing the fractures
            with seams
of gold.

Maggie Mackay