Wednesday 24 April 2024

Michael W. Thomas, "A Time for Such a Word"


Michael W. Thomas’s latest poetry collection is A Time for Such a Word (Black Pear Press). His latest novel is The Erkeley Shadows (KDP / Swan Village Reporter). He has published nine poetry collections, two collections of short fiction and three novels. His work has appeared in, among others, The  Antigonish Review (Canada), The Antioch Review (US), Critical Survey, The London Magazine, Pennine Platform, the TLS and Under the Radar. He is on the editorial board of Crossroads: A Journal of English Studies (University of Bialystok, Poland). From 2004 to 2009, he was poet-in-residence at the Robert Frost Festival, Key West, Florida. He contains no (well, few) additives. His website is here. His blog is The Swan Village Reporter.

About A Time for Such a Word
"A time for such a word" is taken from Macbeth, which might suggest an attempt to doom this collection from the start. True, there are dark corners here and there, but they exist for good reasons and are most carefully explored. And there is also much light and hopefulness. Visiting different points of time and space—now a desert island at dusk, now a log-store with an out-of-season moth, now Grenada, now a suburban house as it unbuilds itself—Thomas’s speakers reflect, speculate, even reanimate what seems valueless, a lost cause, a scene of no account.  The collection’s final line is "You’re alright, you, you’re alright." Now quietly, now emphatically, A Time for Such a Word insists that the world might just be so. 

You can read more about A Time for Such a Word on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read two poems from the collection. 

From A Time for Such a Word, by Michael W. Thomas

The Orphans of Midsomer
          (Midsomer Murders, ITV, 1997 onwards) 

And every so often
a young person stares unseeing
over and around the last five minutes.
The Inspector pats their shoulder,
the DS gives a smile his heart
can’t really afford, because already the next case
is among the foliage, the credits are antsy
at the foot of the screen.  Doors must slam.  
The unmarked car must drive 
into this time next week.

So the young person
without so much as a neighbourly hug
is left to stand outside what they’re stuck with:
a cottage in which the odours have to stoop,
a mansion where the chill huddles into itself
at corniced junctions – 
Death’s pay in kind, there being no other family,
not truly, mum or dad having hooked it
before the episode began,
the other one having been fed to the plot,
even unmasked as the murderer
brewing more grudges than all the hot dinners
touted in the breaks.

A proper wrong ‘un
will always fight the glove
that seeks to pilot their head
through the squad-car’s rear door.
So it is now, before the orphan’s unmendable heart.

The DS and Inspector
will make off through ending’s dusk,
fade in step with their tail-plate.
The supporting cast will tumble
into the run-off down the sides of the script.
Only the orphan remains and is real,
standing before a house whose secrets
will never now stop yakking.
Maybe they’ll pray for their own tomorrow
(though veiled as yet by that fight of names,
key grip, location bod, gaffer…) – 
even tell themselves they can almost see it,
like a hometown glimpsed as a train slows,
half-melted in an indifference of rain.


A blackbird stands on a branch
above where philadelphus
makes the path feel less alone.

It’s the moment when day
starts threading down hand over hand,
stuck about with the odd small glory.

The bird sings the whole mad run of the world
to the second it opened its beak.
War and pleasure bubble in its notes.

Late rain clicks at the greenhouse
as though an irradiated man hides there
and the elements baulk at his wormy blood.

And now a plastic bag
cartwheels past the gate to the lane.  
The blackbird sees off its tale of the hour just gone

and flies.  Imagine them rising together
wet with the first tears of night,
making for what doesn’t know it will be dawn.

Imagine the bird dropping notes into the bag
like unstrung pearls with no floor for their skitter.
Imagine the bag as a singing moon…

…till they swerve apart,
the bird to rise on,
the bag to cascade the knockings of a song

that someone might assemble as they wear against the dark
and try through once or twice…and find
a yes, small and improbable, itching at their heart.

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