Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pond: another sticky ending

'Pond' is a short poem of mine that was written some eight or nine years ago. It's also one of the few poems I've written in 'form', not entirely successfully as you will see. It was published in Poetry Review in the late nineties (at that time still under the editorship of the excellent Peter Forbes).

I thought of it yesterday when driving back from my cousin Spike's funeral in Kent. I was considering ideas for a poem about the funeral, and the need for a strong 'close' to such a poem popped into my mind, along with my many unhappy failures in that department. The following poem, 'Pond', is one of those failures. The last line in particular has been jiggled and wriggled for years, changing from one thing to another, and I'm still not happy with it. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with the poem, of course, but I feel sure I could improve it with a tighter last line.

'Pond' has one of those endings that has consistently 'got away' from me in spite of lengthy and frustrating thought and effort. Looking at it now, I think perhaps the whole closing quatrain might need to be reworked in order to improve the ring of that last line which, at the moment, sounds a little too flat and clumsy to support the rest of this otherwise serviceable little poem about the last throes of a relationship.


Up to your thighs in our new garden pond –
or what will be a pond by half past five –
you seem less human, more amphibian.

To make inert black plastic come alive
with forms that creep, crawl, swim and reproduce,
you heave yourself around collapsing sides

with the ingenuity of an Odysseus.
Soil bouncing blindly off your spade like light,
you tack the liner down that’s working loose.

This muddy sluice is all we’ll have tonight.
The after-dinner speech is ‘Stocking Fish’.
Meanwhile, the garden’s a construction site.

It won’t be long before we come to wish
we’d never started this, neither prepared
to excavate so broad and deep a ditch.

You level up. The pond is nearly there.
One thing we can’t divide now if we part,
a place whose origins at least we share.
This mud will clear, reveal an empty heart.

First published in Poetry Review

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane
Endings are hard - it is a balance between tying it all up too neatly and the need for a strong last line.

For me, the issue with this one is 'This mud' because why 'this' mud - is it special mud? 'this' as opposed to other mud? and also that it isn't mud that clears, but water (I know I am being horribly logical - but it does cause me to pause).
I also wonder if it would be stronger by a sudden change in tense: if it were mine, I would be looking for something like "The water clears, reveals an empty heart."