Blue Touchpaper Press, 2006 - £5.00
Even in the first rush of erotic passion (“Hunting for cunt—/ not wanting to be cured …”), Basil du Toit is concise. These 24 short poems—not really fragments, except perhaps in their lack of titles—sit tidily on the page, advancing the story of the affair in language that’s objective, almost dispassionate. The flattened tone paradoxically makes the poet’s emotions ring true: “Your life is an orchestra the size of a football stadium/ that I’m trying to play my wandering homemade tunes in.” We have no doubt that he’s completely gone on his beloved, but as he describes her in poem after poem, certain unflattering details emerge. She talks endlessly, “down to the smallest details/ … what oils and salts you poured into your bath,/ the way you felt tired at work, what time you left—” She’s not exactly a spring chicken (“I wanted to kiss her gray, gauzed face, / hold the damaged hands …”) or in brilliant physical shape (“Today you let me touch your swollen foot,/ …that old condition of yours flaring up.”) And she’s been psychically damaged, irreparably it turns out, by a broken marriage.
The poet sees that his efforts to fix the relationship are futile. “I bought a book to sort us out,” he writes, “…I wanted to push it, you wanted it to float.” At the end he, too, is damaged. But in the quiet, precise way he describes the damage—like an engineer inspecting a broken machine—he makes us remember that not being damaged is the great illusion of romantic love. “I’ve become an assiduous reader of guides,/ books for perfecting relationships,” he writes, “books on where everything is and how it works/ … I’m fully trained and kitted out/ but I’ll be stood down before the war begins.” No, he won’t. He’ll soldier on.
- Available from the author at Blue Touchpaper Press, 10C Bath Street, Portobello, Edinburgh EH15 1EY, Scotland.
The Common Reader says of 24 fragments from a love affair: The photograph on the cover is beautiful and many of the poems are beautiful too. Fragment number 8 is a very tender account of a shared, intimate private act of kindness which I thought was truly touching. It begins:
Today you let me touch your swollen foot,
puffy and tender at the base of your toes—
The opening lines of many of the poems are wonderful: “Your garden arrives over the phone—/your voice is full of flowers” and “Every week I fall in love with you again...” But somehow
Hunting for cunt—
not wanting to be cured
of that addiction— (fragment number 4)
didn’t fit. I’d be thrilled to have someone dedicate a collection of poems to me but I’d have to say keep it sweet, Basil, and take the cunt out (and I don’t mean for a drink) ●