Helen Farish’s first collection is called Intimates, and it is indeed intimate.
The poems of love and relationships have recurring feeling of “thank goodness it’s over” (“I’m trying to pinpoint when / the accident of your humanity occurred.” and “Being with you / was like the thrill of tightroping // over Niagara. To which compare / life on the other side – a solid bank, / wide grass, picnic spots.”). There are poems on the loss of her father (“He pulled away did my Dad, the sailor, / ten to midnight, gently they said,”), there are poems about other things which hold his loss just as weightily nonetheless (such as ‘Treasures’ about various precious things – “a cassette recording / of a 17-year-old me; the lost photos; / that Dad hoped in the afterlife / he’d be aware of me; that Dad hoped; / the after life;”. There are poems of breasts – from joyously exhibitionist (“Seeing you makes me want to lift up my top, / breathe in and say Look! Look at these!”) through to a redefining of the body through cancer. There is a fantastic poem about mastectomy, adultery and separation (“Mutilation / or preventative medicine – I’ll never know.”). There is a whale (Mesoplodon Pacificus) as a metaphor for an enigmatic self, and a landlocked lighthouse as a metaphor for the security of settling down. ‘The White Gate’ perfectly sums up why I wouldn’t want to get a reading from a psychic (clue: it’s not the woo. Well. Not just the woo.)
The poem ‘Dorothy’ contains these lovely lines: “Have you ever known that? / The joint untethering of souls, / trusting entirely that the other // will not tug you back? […] Don’t talk to me of marriage. Give me this: / no future tugging me back.”
Newly Born Twins
In separate incubators, one of the twins was dying.
Against doctor’s orders, a nurse put them together.
The strong twin, the one with nothing
pulling her back, she slung
her newly born arm over
the one who was wanting to leave,
and stabilised her heartbeat, made everything
regular in the body of the one who’d already
The strong one, she will think
she is God, that she can pull back
life from where it was going.
It will be harder for her
than for the one who already knows
about separation, loneliness, where
they can make you want to go.
View the intro/roundup.