It is a quarter to six, already light, I am trembling
and I say ‘I wish you didn’t—.’ ‘I don’t,’ you say.
‘But you’re always—.’ ‘I don’t—I do not.’
I go downstairs, make a pot of tea, choose mugs,
pour milk. He appears. ‘I don’t.’ Very slowly
he presses tobacco on to a paper, licks, rolls,
goes outside to smoke. ‘I don’t,’ he says, through
the doorway. We are at the threshold—again
and I drive to the station wearing dark glasses.
At the archive, the course leader greets us, one
by one; we listen and speak, raise the kept letters
from their boxes. The air thickens as we dwell,
not finding what we want, wanting what we find.
I hold the breathing paper up to the light—
her writing slants this way and on the other side
that way, just like the thoughts. ‘No one can know
another person,’ she writes. ‘He said I am—, but
I am not. I am not—and I am striving for patience.’
Kay Syrad is a poet and novelist from Sussex in England. Her poetry collection, Double Edge (Pighog, 2012) has been described as a ‘sophisticated and accomplished first collection where knowledge is never merely knowing but lit with unexpected insights and human sympathy.’ Kay’s novel, The Milliner and the Phrenologist was published by Cinnamon Press in 2009 and her new novel, Send, is forthcoming from Cinnamon in October 2015. For this novel, which is partly autobiographical, Kay worked with an artist and a dancer to explore what and how the body remembers. Kay often collaborates with other artists: in 2013 she was the commissioned writer on an art project about the history of our coastal lightships (Last Station) and her artist’s book, work of the lightship men: 1000 tasks, was purchased by the National Maritime Museum in London for their permanent collection.
A note from Kay:
In March and April this year, I attended a four-day course entitled ‘An Anthropology of Ourselves: Exploring Mass Observation for Creative Projects’, during which time creative practitioners were invited to study sections of the Mass Observation Archive at their new state-of-the-art home, The Keep, opened by the Queen in November 2013. The idea was that we used the diaries, written by ordinary people in response to ‘directives’ on certain days of the year, or in response to a phenomenon (such as the second world war), to inspire a project that would bring the amazing and long term resource of these archives out to the community. The group has a follow up day in September to discuss work in progress on these creative projects.
The short course was run by Dr. Sam Carroll under the auspices of the Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research http://www.sussex.ac.uk/clhlwr/ at the University of Sussex.
Here is a link to the Mass Obs archive: http://www.massobs.org.uk/menu_about_mass_observation.htm and The Keep http://www.thekeep.info/learning-at-the-keep//