(Poem #1812) Please Remember To Wash Your Hands
There are wolf thickets. There are culverts full of bears. There are alpine hares that were lost children. Do not talk to strangers. Do not cross the road. Make a ring of fire. Do not play with matches. There are migrant birds that shouldn't be here. There are people listening. There are ill considered consequences. There are no answers to your liking. There are precautions you can take. Switch off the lights. Remove sharp objects on entering the liferaft. Suck fish eyes to stave off thirst. There are many things that do not come alive except in the small hours before the day makes it. Wolf thickets. Half silences. The distance between lovers.
This is a marvellously quiet poem; Greaves makes very effective use of the repeated, passive "there are" to stitch together a series of images into a compelling, coherent whole. I love the way it starts off as a parody of the litany of advice children are subjected to, and then gradually gets darker and more serious, pivoting around the lines There are ill considered consequences. There are no answers to your liking. and then taking another wholly unexpected turn in the penultimate stanza until the whole poem crystallises in the last two lines. I was reminded of my favourite Atwood poem, "Variations on the Word 'Sleep'" [Poem #1093] - there is the same sense, towards the end, of being gradually enveloped in a tangible, organic silence that is composed in equal parts of love and distance. There is also, in counterpoint, a pervasive note of darkness and night that conjures up terrors only reinforced by the "childish" tone at the start, the whole adding up to a poem whose richness and depth belies its surface simplicity. martin [Links] I couldn't find out much about Greaves; http://www.thepoem.co.uk/limelight/greaves.htm says "Sandra Greaves was born in Edinburgh and now lives in London." Anyone knowing more about her is, as usual, encouraged to write in.