Commiserate is a monthly experiment in poetic collaboration.
I asked Jane if she’d stay up late with me and write a poem. In my mind, we’d only send work to each other after midnight, perhaps a little tipsy. Of course, we broke the rules and, of course, it didn’t matter. The point was to connect again since Jane now lives in Berlin and I remain (mostly) in Edinburgh. It is strange how people you once saw every day turn into friends you see once a year. And it is a constant surprise to me (because I’m an idiot) – how people grow and talent evolves. Working in this way with Jane reminded me how far we’ve both come since meeting each other many years ago while working at The Forest. After years of sweating in kitchens and drunken reading tours and countless stupid photographs – it was a pleasure to work with Jane Flett, writer.
I want to be left alone
with you to wind
the garters of our once-told tales
and turn the sky like spades.
I am dead and dry inside
and you are moist as midnight
grass. Some star
always in ascension, some mars
boy always going down, it is five
o’clock somewhere so pour
me a fresh glass of glitter and ask
the bears to leave us be, to stop
clearing those soft furred throats.
To choke. It is dark / they’ve seen our fire
all the times I am not here
—a bag hangs high. So, okay
we’ll leave the bears. Okay, I’ll go in.
I’ll tidy my house. Post my letter.
Stand in the kitchen squinting
at the edifice of glass wondering
whether you plot to return or if
the dark is now your bedroom’s
keyhole / should I grasp my
night vision? Is inside
your room the soft centre of
acorn shells, fit for
my finger? I have forgotten
so many sunsets
so many breakfasts, so many
broken fasts at midnight, so many
rules, all the crosswords I’ve ever
tried to own. So many letters
the ocean is deep, of course
you want to be outside
on a sunny day
you can find anything you need
in thrushes or rusted bins
but to get astride your sunny
day / I have to trek
six continents from here,
forsake the Pleiades and
combat the tin shards
of the night. The trail
to your door is measured in
fathoms. I enter by sinking
slow, into pressure and black.
For me, this poem started off as a long distance mash note to a friend: Hey. I miss you. Let’s sit up all night talking again about everything. But then it went all strange and unexpected. This is what I like most about writing when a poem is going well—the moments when ideas appear on the page that don’t feel like mine at all but still feel like they’re they only thing that could possibly come next. What? Where did all those bears come from?
Of course, in collaboration this feeling is much, much greater. I was pushing the poem one way, Ryan was pulling it another, and I think somewhere in the gaps between our intentions, good things appeared.
Jane Flett is a philosopher, cellist, and seamstress of most fetching stories. Her poetry features in Salt’s Best British Poetry 2012 and is available as a chapbook, Quick, to the Hothouse, from dancing girl press. Her fiction—which Tom Robbins described as “among the most exciting things I’ve read since social networking crippled the Language Wheel”—has been commissioned for BBC Radio, awarded the SBT New Writer Award, and performed at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.