Fishface, Selima HillThe jacket is a photograph. It shows part of a pig lying down, its forlegs and trotters stretching from the right of the jacket across to (nearly) the left.  The pig must be lying in sunshine because it is shadowed in squares from what must be something wire fence. It is lying on yellowed grass and none of the head is visible. The author's name is in the top two inches in very large white caps. The name of the collection is in very small white lower case at the foot of the jacket, so you hardly see it when you glance at the whole.

Fair Acre Press, 2022    £7.50

How the little girl sees things

The little girl of these poems sees the terror and absurdity of relationships (and dogs’ bottoms and depression and religion and all sorts) and gives it to us straight. Her viewpoint is central and much of the emotional resonance is in her observations of her mother:

Does she cower, drenched in eucalyptus oil,

in bedding primed with orange peel and Marmite,
listening for the whine of the mosquitoes

who track her day and night, who won’t let go,
who aren’t so much devoted as deranged?
    [‘My Mother with a Pair of Scissors’]

She would sleep forever if she could —
to get away from thinking about me,
me and my big smile, she can’t stand it,
it follows her around as she paces
from room to room, armed with citronella.

This uneven relationship is echoed in the couple the girl lives with: ‘She draws him pretty pictures of ponies / he chucks into the bin on his way out’ (‘Ponies’) and in the woman’s seeming desire to consume her: ‘She puts — she pops — her finger on my nose […] she thinks it’s just so yummy she could chew it’ (‘People in Taxis’).

The girl’s own thoughts are less cutesy:

We give the Labrador his morning tea.
His bottom and his nose are pale brown
like nylon stockings, only rubbery.
She boils me an egg. I think chick.
    [‘The Boiled Egg’]

She’s also full of complicated resistance: ‘as for being saved, I’ll save myself’ (‘Clocks’), and her behaviour is sometimes self-destructive:

But why obey when you can disobey?
I suck the pods I’m not allowed to suck

and feel something I’m too proud to fear
the word laburnum tells me I’m enjoying.
    [‘The Word Laburnum’]

She dares the reader to doubt her version of the world:

Once a nun came up to me and bit me.

She bit me on the jaw. You don’t believe me?
Very well then, don’t. But she did.
    [‘The Nasty Chair’]

These poems succeed for me in showing me a world I recognise, through a gaze I don’t know. Their ruthless and funny exactitude and gusto is a melancholy delight.

Ramona Herdman