Questions is a collaboration by Lucy Kempton and Joe Hyam. Poems are based on questions drawn from an agreed starting question and formed by answers, which contain and inspire the next questions. In response to Lucy's first question, Joe kicks off. This follows our earlier work in Compasses, archived here, where Lucy's photographs illustrate Joe's series of 50 sonnets under the title Handbook for Explorers.

Saturday 22 August 2009

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?

They're sewn from motley, so it seems, threadbare, thin
patches, tattered clothes from shabby, faded scraps
which sag, or don't meet at the seams, show leering gaps
embarrass us with sight of unaccustomed, light-starved skin.

Or else they're sown from serpent's teeth, pulled from the grin
of the reptile's skull, and scattered in the dust,
fleshless and clattering bones who only know they must
hurt, fight and kill, burn rankly from the emptiness within.

Mis-shapen, sad or savage then they seem,
and alien. But who's that kidding? I'll not deny the fact,
the face kept in the jar is also on my shelf.

Love (tra-la-la-la!) proposes that we're not alone, and may redeem,
we hope - if losing it won't kill us first - the act
of living. So tell me now, just what have you been doing with yourself?


Roderick Robinson said...

Ah, enslaved to the rhyme, and yet obviously comfortable with it. Can't decide whether the rhyme separations make this form more demanding than the Miltonian one which broke my poor heart. Tougher, anyway than the Shakespearean to which I had to return for my latest, celebrating the divine Janet, vulgar couplet and all. But I'm miles away from the conversationalism you practice. Sorry to see the croc is now reduced to a skull; I hope you believe in reincarnation.

Rosie said...

a solitary joy for me on a Sunday afternoon.

The Crow said...

I used to live in a world your poem describes, born of a serpent's tooth father and a tattered-fabric mother.

In truth, I haven't really left that world; only pretend to have done.

This cut to the quick for me, Lucy. Poems should aim for the heart and this one hit its mark, solidly.

Well done.


Rouchswalwe said...

Masterful and full of heart, these lines sizzle with truth. The question at the end rends the soft, comfortable fabric worn by the embarrassed ones.
Bravo, brave Lucy!

Dave said...

Brava, indeed! I didn't even notice it rhymed the first read through, which to my mind is the way to write an end-rhymed poem.

tristan said...



Lucas said...

I have enjoyed reading this poem, Lucy! I admire the sinuous argument running through it as much as the skilful application of form. I like the sudden twist of "my shelf" with the emphasis on "my" working against the meter.
By the way the full refrence is "Tra-la-la-la-la".

Lucy said...

Lucas, yes, that scans better too! So I changed it. It referecnes Joe's previous, though he changed 'love tra-la-la' to 'joy etc' in the final draft.