‘So I was thinking,’ the book says. ‘Going anywhere nice for Christmas?’
’Do you want a lift somewhere?’ I say.
’I don’t want to be left alone.’
’What do you mean?’
’Here. On my own. While you get sloshed with your rellies.’
’You won’t be on your own.’
’It’s all right for you. You’ll be getting sloshed with your rellies.’
’Please can you stop saying that?’
’Me, I’ve got no one.’ The book gives a sniff.
’What are you afraid of?’ I say.
There is a silence.
’The silence,’ the book says again.
There is another silence.
’Try thinking about it this way. Do you remember that Ted Hughes poem about going fishing where he talks about losing words. And wading into underbeing. Then he puts a single word on a one line stanza, all on its own: ‘Cease.’ I love that.’
’What are you going on about?’
’I think unless you are prepared to go into that space, and sit there, and confront… whatever it is that needs saying, or isn’t said, or has been avoided being said, unless you disappear, are prepared to disappear, then nothing will come of your efforts.’
The book looks at me. It stifles a small yawn.
’Or even a very different poet like Frank O’Hara when he talks about being a step away from them. It’s that need to get away, to be other, somewhere else, not with the crowd. I’ve always thought of him as the most extroverted person who ever lived. But I’ve recently developed a theory that he was secretly very INFJ, and that all that out there persona was actually a performance. I think he craved silence more than anything.’
’This is a big theory for just two poems.’
’Or that bit in In the Wake of Home where Adrienne Rich says ‘You will stare at old family albums/ with their smiles […] and nobody came to grief.’ It’s devastating. That locating of the silence below the surface of the story that everyone else is observing, and then digging, actually diving right into it, into that wreck. If you want new poems, that’s where you have to go.’
I look across at the book, who is now snoring deeply, a frail smile on its face.
’Happy Christmas,’ I say, into the silence.