Emma Lee reviews Alison Lock’s ‘Lure’

‘Lure’ Alison Lock
Calder Valley Poetry
ISBN 978-1-9160387-6-9

 

 

‘Lure’ is a long sequence split into three parts that revisits a spot on a countryside path near a millpond where a major fall led to serious injury and lengthy, but successful, rehabilitation. It opens, ‘I swore I could never return, but here I am.’ Nature has moved on ‘the ducks/ are no longer ducklings, tadpoles/ have leapt into their froglet lives’, but the landscape itself has little altered,

 

‘This is the place. I know you well.

We are intimates, yet you have changed.
Beyond the slip-strip of a mud path
there is new growth: fern, plantain,
vetch, shepherd’s purse, and the bank
is a fall-away, an edge, a single foot’s width.’

 

It was a regular journey where the poet used to walk her dog. The scenery is familiar even when it changes with the seasons. The new growth is a sign of security. But the landscape is also deceptive, the still millpond,

 

‘I look into you, and I see me.

But then, I am back to that moment,

lured
as if my reflection has slipped, sideways
in time
and I am falling into the unretrievable.’

 

The poet fell into the water. First came the struggle not to drown but to keep her head above water despite the cold and weight of wet clothes. Second, the efforts to drag herself back out up muddy banks by grasping a root and hoping it would hold. Third, the attempt to move from the riverside and find help. The poet did not realise the full extent of her injuries at this point, only that she could not stand so crawled. Perhaps, at that point, ignorance was a blessing, ‘From boulder to boulder, knee, hand, I scrape./ I am flesh; my unlinked bones articulate my pain.’ If she had known why she couldn’t stand, she may have stayed put rather than seeking help.

 

There’s irony in the recall of a poem she wrote beforehand about the life of the mill, long since abandoned and partially reclaimed by nature, which now seems threatening rather than welcome. ‘Now. On my hands and knees.// I hate this place.’

 

Fortunately, she was found and part II takes the poet to hospital and the discovery her spine was fractured in seven places but the cord was unaffected. She has to lie flat on her back and then wear a brace. ‘First Words – written in hospital, in pencil, on a scrap of paper’ ends,

 

‘I am
of all things
my mind
a pool
that
seeps
flows
ebbs

In ecstasy – the gift of life – still mine.’

 

Finally able to be upright again, in a brace with walking sticks for balance, in ‘Physiotherapy’, daydreams merge with nightmares of drowning, the inevitable reference to ‘Ophelia drowns, simply drowns, she floats/ unbloated as a model for an artist.’ After musing as to why her long gown didn’t pull her under,

 

‘Did she not meet her death in panic, fear, in pain?
Poor Ophelia, no, you did not drown.

I looked it up. There is no symbolic meaning
for pondweed, no romantic connection
like the poppy for death, or rosemary
for remembrance, the innocence of daisy.

I am walking along the track to the site of the mill.
It is the only flat road on which to practise my steps,
to mend the cracks of my fall.’

 

The final poem is an epigraph, a suggestion of acceptance and recovery. The poet has regained the ability to walk that path again. However, the imagery is of shadows, the place alongside the millpond is no longer a path to walk the dog, but leaves an imprint of darkness, the knowledge that still surfaces hide depths.

 

On the surface ‘Lure’ is a journey of a fall resulting in serious injury and the lengthy recuperation afterwards. However, it also questions the poet’s relationship with nature, the way that the familiar can become dangerous in a moment’s slip, not just the physical slip into water but also the slip in perspective: the calm millpond conceals a devastating trap. Recuperation wasn’t just about physical recovery but also the need to be able to return to the millpond and walk its banks again, otherwise recovery would only be partial. Alison Lock successfully conveys the shock of nearly drowning and the struggle to recover both physically and mentally. It is, however, more than a journal. ‘Lure’ invites readers to question their own perspectives and relationship with the natural environment.