Porthole by David Borrott

Reviewed by Anja Konig –  

Chosen by Carol Ann Duffy as one of four ‘Laureate’s Choice‘ pamphlets for The Poetry Business, Porthole is a window into new worlds, an opening through which deeper meaning can be glimpsed from our seemingly ordinary position. David Borrott’s poetry spins tunnels from the earth to the stars and reverses time, casting its net wide. “Flood (after a line by Lorca)” is a beautiful, central poem:

Each night the sea covers the earth
it rises above the sleeping houses.
Listen, its waves are lifting the rooftiles.
Tonight, I am pulled between the wrecks of buildings,
around the frond of trees,
the coral of the liquefied gardens,
drowning slowly in the breathless night.
The sky is a vast ship passing above me,
barnacles stud its hull, one porthole shines.

This expresses a prevalent feeling in this collection, that things are more than themselves: a small human looking up from among the sleeping houses can catch a glimpse of the vast sky ship, and see through its single illuminated porthole. David Borrott pushes against boundaries, interrogates the seams between worlds.

“Ultrasound” looks into the future through this small scope:

With four point five megahertz of clarity,
through jelly on your lifting bulge,
we see into our future: a prophecy
that flutters against your gut,
a resonance vaguely like ourselves.
For you, it is already here:
For me, it is as intangible as tomorrow.
as if far away, submersed amid oceanic depths,
a greening on the scope,
looming, rising on anticipation’s winch.

We are in an underwater world with a little window, looking through at something small and yet enormous at the same time.

In “Rare”, Borrott reverses time: from steak to cow, from modern field to ancient prairie, “until the wilderness is pounded back in” in this healing thought experiment:

My steak will go back to the cow
as a jigsaw piece into a puzzle,
it will fit perfectly, uncooking

He takes flight in the poem “Emptying the Dishwasher”

Taking a bowl into the palm of my hand
maneuvering its hollow shape to the cupboard
not a chore – an exhilaration:
The arc of the movement, a bird’s flight

into the nest of the bowls; …

Bowls are birds, and chores are exhilarations, gesturing beyond themselves. This little book is a porthole through which we can look out into a deeper kind of truth.