Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday Poem: The Problem of Descendants by Tim Jones

They reassort your genes
and sort through your things when you're gone.
They ask: why did he keep that ridiculous hat, those
palaeolithic music magazines?

Half to the tip, half to the Sallies,
plus a small urn on the mantelpiece,
three photos, the fading diaries
they can’t quite bear to throw away.

They remember you at birthdays, Christmas.
You recede into scrapbooks,
the photos growing foxed, your children's children
forgetting why they know your name.

File formats are rendered obsolete.
Anthologies go out of print.
In a provincial library, behind a rack of shelves,
your last book battles silverfish.

Ashes, vanity. The years
scroll past like autocues. Yet,
scavenging the ruins, or terraforming Mars,
still someone somewhere has your nose.

From Men Briefly Explained (Interactive Press) published with permission.

This poem keeps popping into my head - perhaps because noses are strong identifiers in my family: a certain Grecian nose that comes from my father's side and has turned up diluted in me and my daughter, and in full flight in my eldest son. 

I like the ordinary feel of this poem at the start - the stuff that's so familiar - trotting down the page, and I like the way its held together and made compelling by strong sounds that echo within stanzas e.g. 'shelves' followed in the next line by 'silverfish' and then 'ashes'. Then the whole thing pushes out of the up-close-and-provincial with the wonderful image of time passing (the scrolling autocues) and then kicks off into the future and outer space before circling back and zooming in on the almighty inherited nose. 

I laughed out loud when Tim read the poem at Rona Gallery while on his poetry tour  - it was a great finish to his reading segment, and you'll find this sort of humour and playfulness and smartness throughout the book, along with poems of a more serious bent. Looking through my blog posts, I realise I missed Men Briefly Explained off my Best of 2011 list, when I shouldn't have. Apologies Tim. Now rectified. To order the book go here. 

Do check out a terrific post at the Tuesday Poem hub written by T Clear of Seattle about one of her fellow poets. 


Ben Hur said...

Poetry with humour will get me every time. (Actually anything with humour) This is a great poem and very, very true.

I am curious. What does "the photos get foxed" mean? I can guess, but I've never heard that expression before. I'm intrigued.

Good choice, Mary. Good poem, Tim.

Ben Hur said...

Just been watching the video of the reading. You've got a lovely nose, Mary. Just the right size and very much in proportion to your face.

I'm not sure what a Grecian nose looks like. Roman noses I know, but not Grecian.

Mary McCallum said...

Hi Andrew - Foxing is mould on photos or old documents - it's those brown spots you see... lovely word isn't it?

And thanks re. the nose! I didn't think about your being able to compare ... with me, thank goodness, it's not a size issue - just the sheer straightness of it which is reminiscent of Roman nose but is very much Greek (my Dad is a quarter Greek).

Tim Jones said...

Thanks for choosing this poem, Mary, and for your comments, Ben Hur! I am a proud bearer of the world-famous "Cleethorpes nose", which I have just invented in hopes of it becoming an Internet meme.

Kathleen Jones said...

This is one of my favourites of Tim's collection Mary. Perhaps because I've inherited a nose of unfair dimensions from my Italian grandfather! Fortunately my children managed to avoid the rogue gene, but who knows whether their children will be so fortunate?

Claire G said...

Noses are weird.

Cool poem!