Cream cover with painted image spilling out of central 'frame'Smithereens, Tariq Latif

Arc Publications, 2015      £7.00

A leap of faith

This pamphlet depicts beauty, especially in the natural world of the poet’s home town Dunoon, Scotland. Links are made with the scenery and customs of the Punjab —his birthplace — and there is the constant theme of religious belief encompassing both Christianity and Islam. I found the poet’s representation of the possibility of an afterlife particularly compelling.

The poem ‘Fractions’ paints a picture of birds in their natural habitat. The lines and white space mimic their movement which is experienced as ‘between the acts / of life and death’:

That gull,
                       spiralling through
the dull sky,
                       slices the air
in thin loops and I sense
                                                above my head the slight
pressure of other presences
                                                living concurrently
            on the finer frequencies of light.

There is so much delight in this. The poem ‘May’ is set in a Scottish glen which, in the mind of the poet, becomes a place where he can see a different paradise. The last rhyming couplet springs the surprise very effectively. I liked this:

Moss-scabbed stones,
black backbones,
break the water
into plumes of milk. Everywhere
the sound of streams cascading like chipped ice —
the sweet echoes of an Islamic paradise.

But, on this theme, I think the most intriguing poem is ‘Dunoon Beach’ which begins ‘This darkness is table darkness’. The poet as a boy loved to hide under the kitchen table with his ‘back against the wall’:

                                I could see
all around by fractions, guessing
each person by their voice or clothes.

The table becomes a sustained image for all dwellings: the caves of ‘distant ancesters’, the ‘civilised caves’ of the houses in the town, and then the idea that:

                                 The stony beach
all along Alexander Parade is under
the darkness of a gigantic table in the sky.
Somewhere above, great spirits of unflinching
faith feast on a banquet of light.

It is this leap from the domestic, the actual, out to the earth, the sky and what might be beyond it that I enjoyed. It is gently and sensitively shown and it is full of hope.

Anne Bailey