Recently, my relationship with Wednesdays has changed. It’s quite a long story, and one I don’t want to trouble you with. Suffice to say, thanks to the generosity and kindess of some people at my workplace, Wednesday morning has been a refuge for me in the last few weeks, a breathing space I look forward to instead of just another day when I hack away at emails and generally spiral and forget to breathe.
The poem that has been accompanying me on this reconfiguration is Naomi Jaffa’s ‘Poem for Wednesday’, from her wonderful pamphlet of poems Driver (Garlic Press, 2017). (To read the poem, go the link and click on the second thumbnail image. You can also read the magical and heartbreaking poem ‘Sign’ from the same collection at Kim Moore’s blog here. Six quid plus postage. What is that, two coffees and a bun? There isn’t a poem in it which is not true and profound and achieved. What are you waiting for?).
It is a poem of direct address, or as they say in the US, apostrophe. It begins with a line that contains the word humpback. Not a word you see, or hear, very much these days. And that’s why I love it: ‘Oh, humpback of the week,/ yardstick of productivity,/ all to play for, seesaw pivot/ of possibility.’ Isn’t that brilliant? All those ‘i’ and ‘c’ sounds jammed up together, the buried rhyme of ‘productivity’ and ‘possibility’.That’s it!, I said, as I opened the book at that very page, back in 2017.
Typing these words out, I am aware that it also rare to see in poems another word from from my ’70s childhood, ‘seesaw’. The tone here is far from child-like, however. Later we encounter a fishmonger, Matt, ‘fresh from brain surgery,/ his scalp fuzzy with new growth’, and ‘plump scallops/ glistening on their bed of ice’. Death is never far away from any of the poems in Driver, and ‘Poem for Wednesday’ is no different. Nevertheless, its jubilant ending is fully deserved and one that sends me into the rest of this day (I honour it by typing this on a Wednesday) and this week looking for an exucse to ‘be lavish and splash out’. Poems that do this are rare, unfortunately, but Naomi has made one of the beautiful exceptions.