Sunday, 22 August 2010

Two incredible things I read today

The first incredible thing is a book, The Black Book of Colours by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faría

This looks like a  children's book but is really for anyone. Written in Braille and (what's the opposite of Braille?) Braille and type, anyway... describing colours, with vivid descriptions of how they sound and taste and feel. On the opposite page of each description there's a sort of braille picture - images embossed onto the shiny black paper which you can touch and identify. It's an absolutely beautiful book, an aesthetic masterpiece, and I nearly bought it, but unfortunately, I'm broke.

The second incredible thing is a poem. I feel the same way about selectiveness when it comes to poetry as I do with novels - some of them are boring, some of them are silly, some of them I quite like and others I just connect with and they stay with me. Today I read this poem in the LRB and it made me cry, and that's never happened before (and I'm not feeling particularly emotional today, and believe me when I say I'm not the kind of person who usually cries at poetry). But there it is. 

I Knew the Bride
Hugo Williams
for my sister Polly 1950 - 2004

You had to go to bed ahead of us
even then, while your two older brothers
grabbed another hour downstairs.
The seven-year gap
was like a generation between us.
You played the princess,
swanning about the house
in your tablecloth wedding dress,
till we told you your knickers were dirty
and you ran upstairs to change.
Your hair was tied up
in plaits on top of your head,
showing the parting down the back
as you marched out of the room.

It wouldn't be long
till we were asking you to dance,
practising our jiving
for the Feather's Club Ball at the Lyceum.
Nobody knew so well
how to judge the turns
with perfectly tensed arms,
your ponytail flying back and forth
to 'Party Doll' by Buddy Knox.
For my speech on your wedding day
all I had to do
was read out the words
to Nick Lowe's 'I Knew the Bride
When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll.'

You put yourself together
for occasional family lunches
at the Brompton Brasserie,
appearing coiffed and chic
and on time, so that I imagined you
going about all day looking like that
and even assumed you were getting better.
You fought a five-year war
with that foul thing
which deals in hope and fear,
two against one,
like the two brothers who tormented you.
It wouldn't be long
till you had to go to bed.

You turned your back on us
to protect us from your face.
You lay on the rack of yourself,
murdered by your skeleton.
Somewhere towards the end
you climbed its rickety ladder
to your full height
and stood before us one last time.
You had ordered a white stetson
from a mail-order catalogue.
Perched on your coffin, it sailed
ahead of you into the flames.
I saw the parting down the back of your head
as you marched out of the room.

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