Deep blue and red painted cover of an overgrown building. Red lettering for title, smaller white for author

Lost City, Roz Goddard

The Emma Press, 2020   £5.00

Picture perfect and derelict

The mastery of Roz Goddard’s imagery and the way it builds each part of the ‘Lost City’ is captivating. As the title suggests, this collection focuses on scenes of dereliction in an abandoned city through the eyes of its last remaining inhabitants. 

‘The President’s Visit’ is the opening poem. It features a series of images, seemingly disparate yet working together to create an atmosphere which is utterly foreboding:

There’s no water in the swimming pools.
Procurers work alone, hauling sacks of bad fruit.

Bypassing empty ballrooms where the floors are gritty
and smell of rabbit, he muses on the benefits of emptiness.

The theme of abandonment is ever-present. ‘The Tour Guide Feels the Room’ describes fear in a way I think we can all relate to: ‘our dreams, when we can sleep, are films / breathless with danger — journeys in failing cars / over deserts with people we do not love.’

Next in the sequence, ‘The Tour Guide Muses on God’s Mood’ takes us to a church and examines the disintegration of a Bible:

Genesis is tender meat easing from bone
and under the piano, in a film of fallen plaster,
Jeremiah lies sleeping in lonely chapters.

This description of the holy text as animal, failing and decaying, is beautifully written and moving. The poet describes the scene further:

Imagine God re-visiting his old place,
pulpit empty as a bath chair, candles unlit,
cross barely an impression on the wall

The poem symbolises the futility of faith and hope in a place where material possessions lose their value (in ‘Citizen’, ‘A fancy car is sand-blown on the street’) and a population reduced to slim pickings, as in ‘PutU2Rest Mortuary’:

          a sudden bird with no shadow 
landed at my feet, used its energy looking
for ants in the stone gap, tiny beak becoming
dark with a little something.

Roz Goddard has built her Lost City with such precise and original imagery that it lives on in this reader’s mind as a dark, brutal and barren place, begging to be explored again.

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