Socks was published in Mrs Winter's Jump (Godwit 2007) - a beautiful limited edition book to celebrate Jenny Bornholdt's poet laureateship. Two thousand copies were printed and I have book no. 1415.
There are many entrancing poems in this book - Jenny entrances, it's what she does -- but this one had me at 'socks'. They are the musak of my life - there are so many socks in an almost grown family of five: so many to wash, to dry, to roll together in pairs (the 'spares' going into a almost full grocery bag) and to put away. But look, there are two stories inside this poem: the story of common everyday lost socks, and the uncountable story of loss - all loss, universal loss, mine.
It's the leap over the white that keeps the two stories both together and apart. 'Socks' and 'losses' echo each other across the divide - sharing 's' and 'o' sounds, emphasising the bathos, and note how the socks are kept together in a pair (of lines) held together by half rhyme, while 'the losses' are - as one would expect - out on their own. I think this poem is pure genius.
I have a lovely story about it. I was working in the Rona Bookshop one day four years ago, and an elderly woman was brought in by her relatives who left her sitting in a chair while they browsed the books and paintings. I went over and started talking. Turns out the woman was from one of the homes for the elderly. She was right by the poetry section and I asked if she liked poetry. I can't remember if she did or not, to be honest, but she was certainly open to trying one or two.
I found 'Socks' and said, listen to this, and read it to her. She burst out laughing as soon as I'd finished, so loudly - the other people in the shop looked round. She was lit up, transformed. We both agreed it was a magnificent poem about socks and loss, and were still talking about it when the woman's relatives came along and took her quickly off for morning tea or something.
A few days later, I wasn't at the shop and a call came through from a wavery uncertain voice wanting the book about the socks. No-one on deck that day knew which book she was talking about, but they asked which day she'd been in and realised she'd talked to me. I was at home. A phone call later and the book was found and sent off to the home for the elderly with an invoice. Shortly afterwards a cheque arrived with a little note in spidery writing, which I have still, somewhere - about how much the woman loved the book and most especially the socks poem. I've promised it to Jenny, when I find it.
The poem 'Socks' is published with permission. Do go to the Tuesday poem hub to read Lyn Hejinian and the thirty poets in the sidebar.