By Roz Goddard
sang the song of nails and chain
and the iron forge smashed on its
iron plate, and men – soft machines
themselves – stood hip-wise
to the street and called to passing
girls; and the cut snaked grey
under the bridge and secrets stayed
in the bricks of tunnels, stolen kisses
and fumbles out of the mid-day heat.
And mothers hung the wash over
raggedy gardens and there was the
strangeness of your neighbour’s house,
gobs of liver in enamel bowls,
peculiar sideboards and silent fathers by
firesides, dreaming; rose petals that
came to nothing, glass umbrellas
and collared doves who circled, came back,
then took off forever,
as only some of us did.
This poem is taken from Roz Goddard’s superb pamphlet, Spill (Flarestack Poets). In it, the narrator takes us through a quintessentially Black Country setting with its forges, close-knit neighbours and canal bridges. What Goddard does brilliantly is mix the odd and the off-kilter with the everyday, domestic and familiar. The men are traditional; hard-workers, gardeners, silent, but also daydreaming sentimentalists – they’re soft machines themselves. This off-kilter or threshold space is where secrets get caught and stored, where formative romantic moments occur, where only few take off and never return. Goddard’s trump card is her idiosyncratic details, like a series of snapshots, each building part of a series of unknown and potentially unending tales. There is something unending about this poem – we’re looking forward and looking back. The images float, like her collared doves, between nostalgia and the future, between domestic and wild, between beauty and strangeness.