Sunday, 9 September 2012

Still Life, Gordon Hodgeon

Somewhere in my CD collection there's one called Classic Weepies. God knows why I, or anyone else, would choose to buy something with such a title. Though there are times... But I do have a nominal set of "classic weepies" from poetry. These include Gerda Mayer's "Make Believe", with its closing lines: "GERDA MAYER, born '27, in Karlsbad, / Czechoslovakia... write to me, father."; Jon Silkin's "Death of a Son"; Adrian Mitchel's "Victor Jara of Chile" - all of which have, not surprisingly, turned up in past Five Leaves' anthologies. Now I have to add to this list of weepies "The Leaving", by occasional Five Leaves contributor Gordon Hodgeon. "The Leaving" appears in Gordon's Smokestack book Still Life, bought yesterday at the Poetry Book Fair.
There is no easy way to describe this poem, but Gordon is now living in a rehabilitation unit in Peterlee, unable to move his hands and legs, unable to breathe without a ventilator. This collection was dictated to friends or typed with the use of Dragon voice recognition software. Gordon can no longer write directly. In this poem he describes two meetings with his wife,  Julia, one of him being taken, disastrously, to the care home she is living in, the other a visit by her to him, after which he describes the comfort of waking in the early hours, hearing her regular breathing in the night, but the breath he is hearing is that of his ventilator filling and emptying his lungs. The whole collection is not solely about his quadriplegic life, including, for example, memories of his days walking "To Long Meg" and elsewhere, but hanging over the whole collection is "This Bed" - a site far away from the current paralympics.

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