Our Reticent Neighbour

A bakelite telephone rings on the mortuary desk.
Voice recognition kicks in, whirrs awkwardly.

They’re tapping doors and shutters tonight
the gas-lit length of our street. By the time
you’ve pounded stairs, crossed a lobby
insinuated Yales into mortices, they’ve vanished.

Retread the four flights and try again for sleep,
despite search-beams searing the dark. Despite
unmarked ambulances that trawl the suburbs,
half-trained mastiffs that jangle and snarl.

No one’s readying for this night’s shift.
Word’s out. Declassified resumés are destined
for lock waters. A currency broker wakes
in a Third Street tailors’ doorway, coughing.

Lutheran rooming-house occupants
make hasty atonements on discovering
their Gideon Bibles bookmarked at Samuel.
The town ursologist leaves one safety-gate unlatched.

The bakelite instrument’s terrible jangle subsides.
But surely that’s a normally reticent neighbour
rehearsing his C-sharp-minor mazurkas?

by Anne-Marie Fyfe

‘Our Reticent Neighbour’ is copyright © Anne-Marie Fyfe, 2010. It is reprinted from Understudies: New and Selected Poems, published by Seren Books in 2010.

Anne-Marie Fyfe was born in Cushendall on Ireland’s Antrim Coast. She now lives in West London where she has taught literature and creative-writing and programmed poetry events and festivals for many years, including organising and hosting the reading series at London’s famous Troubadour coffee house. She was until recently Chair of the Poetry Society.

‘Our Reticent Neighbour’ is from Understudies: New and Selected Poems, compiled from three earlier collections and including a section of new poems. Anne-Marie Fyfe has read throughout the world at festivals and events and on BBC radio and television. The poet Tom Paulin has described her work as having ‘a lyric clarity, an ontological accuracy and unflinching vigilance that is both spiritual and revelatory.’ Understudies: New and Selected Poems includes selections from her previous books: Late Crossing (1999), Tickets from a Blank Window (2002) – both from Rockingham Press, and The Ghost Twin (Peterloo, 2005). You can learn more about Anne-Marie Fyfe on her website, watch her read a poem from this recent collection here, and read an interview she gave to Pam Johnson at Words Unlimited.

Seren is based in Wales (‘Seren’ means ‘star’ in Welsh) and recently celebrated its 30th birthday. Begun as an offshoot of the magazine Poetry Wales by Cary Archard and Dannie Abse in the latter’s garage in Ogmore-by-Sea, the press has now grown and employs a number of staff. It is known for publishing prize-winning poetry, including collections by recent Forward winners, Hilary Menos and Kathryn Simmonds, as well as books by Owen Sheers, Pascale Petit, Deryn Rees-Jones, and many others. The fiction list features a new title by Patrick McGuinness, The Last Hundred Days, that was longlisted for the Booker Prize. The high-quality arts books include the recent collaboration between the poet John Fuller and the photographer David Hurn, Writing the Picture. For more details about Seren, visit the publisher’s new website, where there is a blog about Seren’s news and events. You can also find Seren on Facebook, on Twitter, and on YouTube, where there are videos of a number of poets reading from their work.

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