Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Socks by Jenny Bornholdt

I'm sick
of socks

the losses.


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. 


Elizabeth Welsh said...

Mary, this is such a treasure of a story. I, too, had quite a giggle - it is so surprising and yet holds so much. The loss - stunning. Thank you so much for posting, it made my poetry week.

Melissa Green said...

Dear Mary, what a delightful story--and only you would have known to pull down a book for her, and then which poem to read aloud. She got a wonderful book and you got a wonderful tale--it's hard to tell whose day was luckier! And who could have guessed that balled up in a pair of matched socks would be so much sorrow.

susan t. landry said...


thanks mary, made my day.

susan t. landry said...

mary, i ordered the book. i think this is the 3rd book i've bought because of you! (or, at least, because of TP...)