Carla Scarano appreciates Tom Weir’s treatment of uncertainty in his new collection
A sense of loss and renewal pervades the new collection of Tom Weir. His well crafted lines evolve in enticing images involving the reader in an ever-changing world – a kind of space-time dimension where relationships and different languages interweave in a complex process of understanding through describing, or rather evoking, who we are, what we feel and how we learn.
The memories of the death of relatives or friends bring back their presence revealing the illusion of the distinction between past, present and future, as Einstein said on the occasion of the death of one of his friends. Nevertheless, time flows in elegant lines in these poems. At the same time, the poems show the ‘uncertainty’ of human condition as in the chains of the swing that ‘shake when they should remain completely still’ (‘Swings’), a continuous movement that reflects our unstable but also transforming state.
Language is the common ground, the tool of communication but it can also be subversive, negative; it breaks the delicate links of relations and produces wounds that are hard to heal. It is a voice that ‘creaks like a mast on the wind’ (‘Listening to my mother swear’), or in the image of a ‘gunfire rattle/in your mouth’ (‘Weight’). The meaning of words is difficult to utter in the ‘loose wires of language’ which a child cannot connect yet. But even a child is aware of the slipping of significance when something dear is in danger (‘The Sacrifice’).
Words are bricks that construct the world of language, our world, in more or less abstract ways, as in the technical terms in teaching, like ‘evaporation and disintegration’, or concrete words like ‘clock or table’ (‘Vocabulary’). They blur and blend in ‘greens and browns’ in a hilly landscape in an attempt to find the right balance ‘to navigate gravity and adjust themselves/accordingly’, to ‘find a gaze point’, grasping
……the language of the clock on the wall, how each second has an echo that needs to be felt but not reached to. (‘Balancing Act’)
The lyric voice seems to suggest that the ambiguity of language resides in the discrepancy between our effort to observe and describe through words and the inevitable loss of perception that reflects our finite being:
I guess what I’m trying to say is that your death happened after you died, is still happening now that thing about stars outlasting themselves, that delay of light and sound. (‘Footfall’)
The fluid rhythm of Tom Weir’s enjambments reflects this evolving thinking that expands and jolts, relates people to people, weather to landscape, time to space. Concepts and meanings come ricocheting back in a loss that is not definitely lost; they linger and leave indelible traces:
so no matter how far your death was planning to take you, there’d be a point of return where you’d round on the air – rain clattering off your teeth, patterns of sunlight and cloud unravelling on your back. (‘I chose Boomerang’)
Rain is a recurring motif in this collection; it is a noise, a metaphor for words, a danger approaching as in a flood, but also a shower from the sky in a ‘cold, damp, beautiful day’ at the stadium. It is ‘a thing’ reminiscent of the sacred water of the river Ganges where the loved one lies smelling of incense (‘Rain’). It comes out of the blue but also sticks to the ground, ‘punctures our skin’, reveals our vulnerability as ‘the slightest breeze knocks us off our feet’. (‘We are all Vulnerable Tonight’). However, human vulnerability is also a strength, a capacity to be flexible, compassionate, to adapt and progress, expand and explore, storing memories and transforming what we have learned in a reason to carry on and be innovative.
This is an enthralling collection that combines the sense of being human in an uncertain but expanding universe where relationships are fundamental.