On the occasion of Mayer Samuel Houdini’s 17th birthday
He would be the one to invent a son.
Perhaps his greatest sleight of hand: letters
in that dramatic copperplate, Dear Mrs Houdini,
Mayer has his first tooth, is crawling, can say his name,
in full, our boy, tender anecdotes of bumps and scrapes –
trying to fly before he could walk, of course –
of night-time vigils, lisped funnies, tantrums, slapstick.
………………………………As if I’d have as little say
in my own son as I do in his act: ever the flunky;
the suspension of disbelief; the accessory after the fact.
He did allow him a likeness though – my dark eyes.
Little touches like that, they’re why he’s the success he is.
A locket with a wispy golden curl for Mother’s Day.
A scuffed pair of calf-skin baby shoes. And when the child
would have started school, the reports began, always
in a different hand – outlining academic glory,
popularity, sporting prowess. I’ve even an invitation
to his bar mitzvah somewhere.
…………………………….He has never mentioned him
to my face; realises that would be too much to stomach.
No, I find the letters on my pillow every month,
about that time; a thoughtless gift.
Now and then we have to let ourselves in,
knowing before we’ve unlocked the door
that inside it’s as if no-one’s home —
TV off, radio quiet as the hush
between each tick of the kitchen clock,
the only sound a distant rat-a-tat-tat.
She’s up in the box room
with towers of tins stockpiled
against famine and flood, hunched
over the Singer, feeding swags of polycotton
across its cool, metal plate
while the frenzied needle stabs,
retreats. Pins clamped between her lips
like threats, foot down like a racing driver
accelerating out of a corner’s rubber stink.
Jo Hemmant lives in the Kent countryside with her husband and two sons. She is the director of Pindrop Press, a boutique poetry press that has published twelve titles to date. She is involved in local poetry, acting as Secretary of The Kent and Sussex Poetry Society and running creative writing workshops.
Her poems have been published in many magazines and anthologies, including Magma, Iota, Dream Catcher, Brittlestar, nothing left to burn (Ragged Raven Press, 2011), Jericho (Cinnamon Press, 2012). She has also won prizes in various competitions – including first prize in The New Writer Poetry and Prose Competition 2011 (collection category), second prize in the Torriano Poetry Competition in 2011 and runner-up in the Cardiff International Poetry Competition 2012.
The Light Knows Tricks is her first collection and can be bought from Doire Press.
7 thoughts on “Jo Hemmant: Featured Poet”
Thanks for this Abi!
I’ve really enjoyed these poems – the Houdini completely takes me somewhere else. I love some of the sounds – “lisped funnies” being one. It all weaves so brilliantly between trickery and reality and the end is an amazing surprise. It’s one I will read again and again.
The title “Scratch Days” is brilliant. This poem takes me somewhere I can relate to – I see my mother “hunched” over her old Singer and the pins between her teeth. What amazing sound patterning you have here – “frenzied needle stabs” – love it. The stockpiling is also very evocative – it took me into our larder as children with all the bottled fruits and vegetables and mysterious tins – it was a wonderland. I like poems that take me with them 🙂
I’ve really enjoyed ‘The Light Knows no Tricks’ – this is one collection among others that I will be dipping into over and over again.
These two poems give us a wonderful taste of Jo’s range. Her use of language is fantastic.
The Houdini one is a poem I shall have to read again and again to uncover the layers. So cleverly written. I love ‘Scratch Days’ which paints such a true and tender picture of a certain time.
Thank you for sharing these.
I thoroughly recommend this collection and love these two poems.
Thanks very much Valerie, Margaret and Karen…..your support means a lot!
These two poems give me great pleasure – reading and re-reading them; Jo’s descriptions and perfect pacing bring me into the scenes and into the characters – so that I see and feel things through their eyes. Complicated and startling things – which is the way life is. Jo does good magic with these poems. I am the proud owner of this collection and am presently in the midst of reading the Houdini sequence. Great stuff.
Thanks very much everyone 🙂