Lost Below the Surface
Stilled water holds our secrets in silt,
language of sand, leaf,, root,
words lost below the surface.
These are the opening words of the first section of this remarkable book. Sometimes you hold your breath in anticipation of a poetry collection, musing on how the writer will deal with the subject matter. This has been, for me, one such occasion.
Already a very accomplished poet, Alison Lock creates an inspiring and unique lyrical account of a near death experience with her particular emphasis on environment and natural landscapes and how they interconnect with human understanding.
Lure captures the reader, pulling them into re-living her horrendous accident and the surroundings in which it occurred. At no time does the poet feel sorry for herself but rather connects with nature in order to find a path through her predicament in a place so familiar to her, where she was walking with her dog one early morning. Part I is one long lyrical evocation from the moment it happened:
There is the mark
on the place where broken rocks
are my bones, cold meltwater my blood.
Earth, air, water, spirit.
It was early one morning in April
when I entered her waters
in a flash of a kingfisher’s stripe
I might never have seen.
I do not remember. The falling.
It is a tribute to a great writer that she is able to recall observations at such a time, trapped under water, alone, without a sense of panic but rather of seeking a way to become a part of the place in which she finds herself, following roots and branches and debris in order to find a way out. She becomes as one with her surroundings, following the rhythm that can keep her afloat. Until the questions:
Will I ever be found, this weed-bound me
this creature of pond, in plight?
Unknown to me my back is broken. I am truly felled.
I am a wolf, snarling into another life, circling wider and wider.
What follows is a song of place, an intimacy of circumstances, where two lives – that of the earth, the other of a person at one with it, until we reach the end of the first section:
Hands, knees, reaching, inching.
I am the widening side
where the spilled earth
has been lifted, tipped into a pyramid
of brick, a rubble of razing.
I sink, I can go no further,
on, in, pain, dark.
Too cold, too cold, I am too cold.
Part II (I Am Found) consists more of individual poems – each one a part of the long haul to recovery – the hospital, the back brace, the physio – each one a song to nature as if rediscovering not only herself but the world around her – until winter arrives:
Fault lines diminish, as I heal
the honeycomb of bone is mending
with the glue
of collagen, salt, calcium,
phosphate elements to re-create me.
So now I have the words, I have darkness, and I have hope.
The Epitaph – part III ends with the beautiful words:
I leave you the herons by the stream,
their silent flights known only by their shadow.
This book is a song waiting to be sung – I have tried to provide a glimmer of the treasure in store for the reader. This is a one-off, courageous, work about a landscape which held the power of life or death – the reader quickly becomes as much a part of this landscape as the trauma with which it is intertwined. A highly recommended work which will quickly become one you may wish to dip into often – a reminder that life is a gift.