Title: The Other Country.
Author: Carol Ann Duffy.
Genre: Poetry, immigration,
Publication Date: 1990.
Summary: A collection of 44 poems. Originally is a poem of a child going through the process of immigration and acclimatization, contrasting the concepts of childhood and immigration overall. In Mrs Tilscher's Class describes the experience of hot summer school days just on the cusp of hitting puberty. Sit at Peace describes the experience of a child seemingly constantly told to "sit at peace." Hometown is a bitter-sweet ode to one's hometown. Translating the English, 1989 is a poem about being introduced to the U.K. and all its major concerns in the year 1989. Mrs Skinner, North Street is a poem about a lonely elderly lady watching the world go by outside. Too Bad is a poem seemingly told from a perspective of a person about to commit a crime with his buddies. Weasel Words is a poem written in defence of weasels, by a weasel. Poet for Our Times discusses how coming up with headlines for newspapers has become the new poetry of our time. Job Creation is a poem dedicated to the poet Ian McMillan, describing the drugging and tying up of Gulliver. Talent Contest is about a person involved in a talent show, questioning whether he or she should be there. Ape is a poem about a silverback gorilla picture in a calendar. The Legend is a poem about picturing a legendary dinosaur. In Descendants, a young man talks of his experiences and bitterness in the wake of a nuclear fall-out. We Remember Your Childhood Well is a monologue of a parent (or parents), who seems to remember a very different childhood than their presumably grown child. The Act of Imagination lists all the things that "appall the imagination." Somewhere Someone's Eyes is a drunken discussion among friends about those that are incredibly talented, but die unknown and undiscovered. In Liar, a woman who tells lies about herself is committed to a mental hospital when she abducts a child. Boy is a poem about a child's perspective, told by an adult. In Eley's Bullet, a man finds a bullet with his name on it while out in the fields, and the same night has to face the loss of his married lover. Following Francis is about a man who abandons his family and good sense to follow St. Francis of Assisi, but his love may go deeper than religion. Survivor is a poem about grieving the irreversible and irretrievable past. An Afternoon With Rhiannon references Philip Larkin's poem 'The Building,' and contemplates on similar themes of aging and death that Larkin's Building stands for. Losers is a poem about living in the past and missing the present. M-M-Memory is a poem about the intimate relationship between remembering and forgetting. Père Lachaise is a melancholy poem about the eponymous cemetery, the most visited cemetery in the world, and home to many famous men and women. Funeral is a poem about burying a friend. Dream of a Lost Friend is about a dream of a friend who has passed away from AIDS. Like This is a poem that presumably speaks to a person who has passed away from alcoholism before their time. Who Loves You is a poem that encourages a loved one to get back home safely, avoiding the dangers that daily claim lives. Two Small Poems of Desire is a poem (in two parts) about the narrator contemplating love while naked in bed with her lover. Girlfriends is a poem about a sexual encounter between two girls. A Shilling for the Sea is a poem about the pretensions of dating, and its interrelationship with money. Hard to Say is a poem about growing accustomed to your spouse and taking the 'I Love You's for granted. The Kissing Gate is about a person fantasizing and thinking about their loved one right after leaving them. Words, Wide Night is an ode to a beloved who is far away. The Darling Letters is a poem about the embarrassing all love letters everyone secretly keeps. Away From Home is a poem about being away from home in a bleak, industrial landscape, and finding your way back. November is a poem about a hot November day being marred by a funeral procession. The Literature Act is a fantasy about living with a violent and harsh man, which would be served as a law and punishment to such a man by police. River is a poem that compares the flow of water to the flow of words, and imagines an idyllic nature scene. The Way My Mother Speaks is a poem of the transition between childhood and independence and adulthood, and feeling homesick for one's mother and he way of speaking. In Your Mind is a poem about memory, imagination, and day-dreaming blending together in a remembrance of a country one has left.
My rating: 7.5/10
♥ All childhood is an emigration. Some are slow,
leaving you standing, resigned, up an avenue
where no one you know stays. Others are sudden.
Your accent wrong. Corners, which seem familiar,
leading to unimagined, pebble-dashed estates, big boys
eating worms and shouting words you don't understand.
My parents' anxiety stirred like a loose tooth
in my head. I want our own country, I said.
♥ ..I remember my tongue
shedding its skin like a snake, my voice
in the classroom sounding just like the rest. Do I only think
I lost a river, culture, speech, sense of first space
and the right place? Now, Where do you come from?
strangers ask. Originally? And I hesitate.
♥ This was better than home. Enthralling books.
The classroom glowed like a sweet shop.
Sugar paper. Coloured shapes. Brady and Hindley
faded, like the faint, uneasy smudge of a mistake.
♥ ...A rough boy
told you how you were born. You kicked him, but stared
at your parents, appalled, when you got back home.
♥ That feverish July, the air tasted of electricity.
A tangible alarm made you always untidy, hot,
fractious under the heavy, sexy sky. You asked her
how you were born and Mrs Tilscher smiled,
then turned away. Reports were handed out.
You ran through the gates, impatient to be grown,
as the sky split open into a thunderstorm.
~~from In Mrs Tilscher's Class.
♥ In that town there was a different time,
a handful of years like old-fashioned sweets
you can't find anymore. I lived there.
♥ Those streets, the gloomy shortcut by the church,
the triangle from school to home to the high field -
below which all roads sped away and led away -
and back again. Wherever I went then, I was
still there; fretting for something else, someone else,
somewhere else. Or else, I thought, I shall die.
And so I shall. Decades ahead of this, both of me,
then and now, pass each other like ghosts
in the empty market-place, where I imagine myself
to be older and away, or remember myself
younger, not loving this tuneless, flat bell
making the time. Or moved to tears by its same sound.
♥ Milk bottles. Light through her. No post. Cat,
come here by the window, settle down. Morning
in this street awakes unwashed; a stale wind
breathing litter, last night's godlessness. This place
is hellbound in a handcart, Cat, you mark
her words. Strumpet. Slut. A different man
for every child; a byword for disgrace.
♥ Scrounger. Workshy. Cat, where is the world
she married, was carried into up a scrubbed stone step?
~~from Mrs Skinner, North Street.
♥ Cheers. Thing is, you've got to grab attention
with just one phrase as punters rush on by.
I've made mistakes too numerous to mention,
so now we print the buggers inches high.
TOP MP PANTIE ROMP INCREASES TENSION.
RENT BOY: ROCK STAR PAID ME WELL TO LIE.
♥ Of course, these days, there's not the sense of panic
you got a few years back. What with the box
et cet. I wish I'd been around when the Titanic
sank. To headline that, mate, would've been the tops.
♥ IMMIGRANTS FLOOD IN CLAIMS HEATHROW WATCHER.
GREEN PARTY WOMAN IS A NIGHTCLUB TART.
The poems of the decade... Stuff 'em! Gotcha!
The instant tits and bottom line of art.
~~from Poet for Our Time.
♥ Here are ropes, they said.
Tie him down.
We will pay you.
Tie Gulliver down with these ropes.
I slaved all day at his left knee,
until the sun went down
and clouds gathered on his eyes
and darkness settled on his shoulders
like a job.
~~from Job Creation.
♥ Turnover. Profit. Readies. Cash. Loot. Dough. Income. Stash.
Dosh. Bread. Finance. Brass. I give my tongue over
to money; the taste of warm rust in a chipped mug
♥ I put my ear to brass lips; a small fire's whisper
close to a forest. Listen. His cellular telephone
rings in the Bull's car. Golden hello. Big deal. Now get this
straight. Making a living is making a killing these days.
Jobbers and brokers buzz. He paints out a landscape
by number. The Bull. Seriously rich. Nasty. One of us.
♥ Palmgrease. Smackers. Greenbacks. Wads. I widen my eyes
at a fortune; a set of knives on black cloth, shining,
utterly beautiful. Weep. The economy booms
like cannon, far out at sea on a lone ship. We leave
our places of work, tired, in the shortening hours, in the time
of night our town could be anywhere, and some of us pause
in the square, where a clown makes money swallowing fire.
~~from Making Money.
♥ Applause. A show of hands from plonkers with day-jobs. Cheers.
You're kind to the yodeller later, sneaky and modest, not letting on
you thought it a piece of piss. Talent. A doubt like faraway thunder
threatens to ruin the day, that it's squandered on this.
~~from Talent Contest.
♥ But people have always lied! You know some say it had a trunk
like a soft telescope, that it looked up along it at the sky
and balanced a bright, gone star on the end, and it died.
~~from The Legend.
♥ Sad. I hate the bastard past, see,
I'd piss on an ancestor as soon as trace one. What fucking seasons
I says to her, just look at us now. So we looked. At each other.
At the trembling unsafe sky. And she started, didn't she, to cry.
Tears over her lovely blotchy purple face. It got to me.
♥ What you recall are impressions; we have the facts. We called the tune.
The secret police of your childhood were older and wiser than you, bigger
than you. Call back the sound of their voices. Boom. Boom. Boom.
♥ What does it matter now? No, no, nobody left the skidmarks of sin
on your soul and laid you wide open for Hell. You were loved.
Always. We did what was best. We remember your childhood well.
~~from We Remember Your Childhood Well.
♥ Picking someone else's nose.
The Repatriation Charter.
The men. The Crucifix. The nails.
♥ Eating the weakest survivor.
A small hard lump.
~~from The Act of Imagination.
♥ Because I remember this, a cool room flares
with the heat of a winter's fire, briefly. His face
glowed red-brown when he spoke to the flames.
I recollect it more than well, smell malt. What
happens to the lost?
♥ ..It was easy
to laugh in that snug house, talk nonsense
half the night, drink. Across the white fields somewhere
someone's eyes blazed as they burned words in their mouth.
~~from Somewhere Someone's Eyes.
♥ Of course, a job; of course, a humdrum city flat;
of course, the usual friends. Lover? Sometimes.
She lives like you do, a dozen slack rope-ends
in each dream hand, tugging uselessly on memory
or hope. Frayed.
♥ ..No one believed her.
Our secret films are private affairs, watched
behind the eyes. She spoke in subtitles. Not on.
♥ The world is terror. Small you can go As I
lay down my head to sleep, I pray... I remember
my three wishes sucked up a chimney of flame.
♥ Now it's a question of getting the wording right
for the Lonely Hearts verse. There must be someone
out there who's kind to boys. Even if they grew.
♥ At ten, Eley came into the bedroom with drinks.
She was combing her hair at the mirror. His eyes
seemed to hurt at the sight. She told him sorry,
but this was the last time. She tried to smile.
He stared, then said her words himself, the way
he's spoken Latin as a boy. Dead language.
♥ Nearby, a bullet
was there for the right moment and the right man.
He got out his gun, slowly, not even thinking,
and loaded it. Now he would choose. He paused.
He could finish the booze, sleep without dreams
with the morning to face, the loss of her
sore as the sunlight; or open his mouth
for a gun with his name on its bullet to roar
in his brains. Thunder or silence. Eley wished to God
he'd never loved. And then the frightened whimper of a dog.
~~from Eley's Bullet.
♥ We are animals, he said.
I am more practical. He fumbles with two sticks
hope for fire; swears, laughs, cups glow-worms
in his palm while I start up a flame. Some nights
we've company, local accents in the dusk. He knows.
I know he knows. When he looks at me, he thinks
I cannot tame this.
~~from Following Francis.
♥ Also my first love, who was fifteen, Leeds, I know
it is thirty years, but when I remember him now
I can feel his wet, young face in my hands, melting
snow, my empty hands. This is bereavement.
♥ My lover rises and plunges above me, not knowing
I have hidden myself in my heart, where I rock
and weep for what has been stolen, lost. Please.
It is like an earthquake and no one to tell.
♥ Then you shouted Boat!, pointing
at nothing, Boat!, an empty river, a boatless blue painting
you haven't begun yet. A small child's daylight
is a safer place than a poet's slow, appalling, ticking night;
a place where you say, in a voice so new it shines, I like
buildings! The older people look, the shy town smiles.
~~from An Afternoon with Rhiannon.
♥ Imagination is memory. We are the fools who dwell in time
outside of time.
♥ Where do you live? In a kiss in a darkened cricket pavilion
after the war? Banker? In the scent, from nowhere, of apples
seconds before she arrived? Poet? You don't live here
and now. Where? In the day your mother didn't come home? Priest?
In the chalky air of the classroom, still? Doctor? Assassin? Whore?
Look at the time. There will be more but there is always less.
Place your bets. Mostly we do not notice our latest loss
under the rigged clocks. Remember the night we won! The times
it hurts are when we grab the moment for ourselves, nearly -
the corniest sunset, taste of a lover's tears, a fistful of snow -
and the bankrupt feeling we have as it disappears.
♥ Kneel there,
words like fossils
trapped in the roof of the mouth,
forgotten, half-forgotten, half-
recalled, the tongue dreaming
it can trace their shape.
Names, ghosts, m-memory.
♥ Some of our best friends nurture a virus, an idle,
charmed, purposeful enemy, and it dreams
they are dead already. In fashionable restaurants,
over the crudités, the healthy imagine a time
when all these careful moments will be dreamed
and dreamed again. You look well. How do you feel?
Then, as I slept, you backed away from me, crying
and offering a series of dates for lunch, waving.
I missed your funeral, I said, knowing you couldn't hear
at the end of the corridor, thumbs up, acting.
Where there's life... Awake, alive, for months I think of you
almost hopeful in a bad dream where you were long dead.
~~from Dream of a Lost Friend.
♥ ...and, nearer now to you, they get in the rounds,
the solemn, slow, ceremonial rounds which soften their tongues
to speak brief epitaphs of love, regret; meanwhile,
you lie in an ice-cold drawer, two postal codes away,
without recall or recourse, although you had both,
although you are not yet old, although a woman is crying
in the big house on the park where they carried you out
for the last time, where you were told how it would end,
how it would be like this unless, unless. And it is.
~~from Like This.
♥ Send me your voice however it comes across oceans.
Safety, safely, safe home.
~~from Who Loves You.
♥ The little sounds I make against your skin
don't mean anything. They make me
an animal learning vowels; not that I know
I do this, but I hear them
floating away over your shoulders, sticking
to the ceiling. Aa Ee Iy Oh Uu.
♥ Who cares. Sometimes language virtuously used
is language badly used. It's tough
and difficult and true to say
I love you when you do these things to me.
~~from Two Small Poems of Desire.
♥ I asked him to give me an image for Love, something I could see,
or imagine seeing, or something that, because of the word
for its smell, would make me remember, something possible
to hear. Don't just say love, I said, love, love, I love you.
♥ ..And so it was, with a sudden shock of love,
like a peacock flashing wide its hundred eyes, or a boy's voice
flinging top G to the roof of an empty church, or a bottle
of French perfume knocked off the shelf, spilling into the steamy bath,
I wanted you. After the wine, the flowers I brought you drowned
in the darkening light. As we slept, we breathed their scent all night.
~~from Hard to Say.
♥ ..Love holds words to itself, repeats them
till they're smooth, sit silent on the tongue
like a small stone you sucked once, for some reason,
on a beach.
~~from The Kissing Gate.
♥ Somewhere on the other side of this wide night
and the distance between us, I am thinking of you.
The room is turning slowly away from the moon.
This is pleasurable. Or shall I cross that out and say
it is sad? In one of the tenses I singing
an impossible song of desire that you cannot hear.
La lala la. See? I close my eyes and imagine
the dark hills I would have to cross
to reach you. For I am in love with you and this
is what it is like or what it is like in words.
~~Words, Wide Night.
♥ ..Once in a while, alone,
we take them out to read again, the heart thudding
like a spade on buried bones.
~~from The Darling Letters.
♥ ..It is far too hot for November
and far too late for more than the corpse stopped
at a red light near the Post Office, where you pause
wishing you could make some kind of gesture
like the old woman who crosses herself as the hearse moves on.
♥ ..Water crosses the border,
translates itself, but words stumble, fall back,
and there, nailed to a tree, is proof. A sign
in new language brash on a tree.
♥ What would it mean to you if you could be
with her there, dangling your own hands in the water
where blue and silver fish dart away over stone,
stoon, stein, like the meanings of things, vanish?
She feels she is somewhere else, intensely, simply because
of words; sings loudly in nonsense, smiling, smiling.
If you were really there what would you write on a postcard,
or on the sand, near where the river runs into the sea?
♥ Only tonight
I am happy and sad
like a child
who stood at the end of summer
and dipped a net
in a greet, erotic pond. The day
and ever. The day and ever.
I am homesick, free, in love
with the way my mother speaks.
~~from The Way My Mother Speaks.
♥ ..The past fades like newsprint in the sun.
You know people there. Their faces are photographs
on the wrong side of your eyes.
♥ Then suddenly you are lost but not lost, dawdling
on the blue bridge, watching six swans vanish
under your feet. The certainty of place turns on the lights
all over town, turns up the scent on the air. For a moment
you are there, in the other country, knowing its name.
And then a desk. A newspaper. A window. English rain.
~~from In Your Mind.