St Valentine’s Day Special: Jacob Polley

Rather than publishing some Neruda, the Valentine’s day special will be an antidote to Valentine’s day. I have finally acquired a copy of Identity Parade after attending a reading at Shakespeare & co of four of its poets. The below poem, which I’ve lifted from the anthology, is by Jacob Polley. Polley was born in 1975 and was a winner of the Eric Gregory Award in 2002. His first book, The Brink, was a PBS choice and shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. His second book, Little Gods, was a PBS Recommendation.


as fishing nets, a wedding dress,
rain that defies rain’s downwardness
and spools past the windows, frame by frame –
film after film of Edwardian rain.
Rain as haunting, rain’s ghost-train.
Rain bleeding black from the cracks in bricked-up chimneybreasts;
rain’s wall-maps, rain’s damp lands, outlined in great stains.

Old rain, the same rain, my father’s father’s cold rain
taken up like a tune, confessed
to the city, hurried into the drains
and the dark and piped under playgrounds and cold-frames.
From the hills comes rain as more river, not falling
but fattening – bales of newspapers, abandoned books,
hemp ropes, rotten logs and fungi: rain feeds.

From the top bar of a five-bar gate hangs
the green world stilled in a water seed,
while the river slides by, echoing and echoey.
Rain as lost shoes; drinkers huddled like rooks.
Rain that’s put paid, done you out of a day. Rain’s patter,
rain’s slang; rain’s bespittling of the spider’s webs.
Rain’s pillars of smoke, rain’s rooms outside the room

you watch from as rain runs through its embodiments –
a bride swinging like a bell, a lunch-hour factory crowd,
the shadow of a matchstick girl: the smudgy, underdeveloped dead
rain remembers as spaces it once rained around.

Rain’s pencil-leads, rain’s sketchiness,
rain writing, but whatever it tries to read back
drowned out. Rain’s inconsequence to the sea.

A few pins drop, then rain’s loosened like hair,
or it steps with the night clean out of the air.
Rain’s sound is the sound of the day, undone,
the rustle of cellophane, someone and no one.
But at dawn, in the silence just after the rain,
the wet black earth of the bare field lies –
frankincense for you and me.

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