I know the smoke and steam of industry. Tall chimneys, the cordons of terraced houses. Shift changes: men in caps and thick jackets leaving or returning home in the dark.
The cover of Frances Angela’s new chapbook, Philip Street, evokes these memories of my hometown in South Wales. I recall the streets named for landowners, builders and benefactors. Remember the kids we were warned against playing with …
they didn’t like me playing with patsy o’malley they said her family were thieves and rogues[i]
And there was the library too:
the library just for the smell[ii]
I know that smell: dust, polish, paper. But then my childhood path diverges from the one that unfolds in the subsequent pages: a children’s home, a catechism class, whiskey. This is not my story. Yet somehow, it is my story, the one I imagine, the one I experience through my senses…
pub night the dark heap of mother’s clothes[iii]
… and through empathy and compassion for hope forbidden and lost.
i wanted to be a librarian a saint or an actress at school they told me i could apply for the mill or if lucky a shop my father bought me a brown nylon overall from the co-op you could wash and dry it overnight
the smell of paraffin
on my way to work[iv]
Philip Street is a compressed and visceral journey from childhood to adulthood that is perfumed with joy, desire, grief and a concluding idea of acceptance or understanding:
demolished mill it all grows back[v]
‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.’ The immortal first line of L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between wistfully illustrates our relationship with memory: what we remember, what we think we remember, what is known, what can’t be known. But as writers we keep on visiting our foreign countries and its inhabitants. We keep on telling our stories, sometimes to make sense of things, other times to simply bear witness. And we tell the stories of people who, for so many reasons, may not have had a voice.
small linoed kitchen
my dead grandma’s nightdress
on the pulley line[vi]
Angela, Frances, Philip Street
First published in Great Britain in 2018 by
Snapshot Press, Orchard House, High Lane, Ormskirk L40 7SL
Free to download: eBooks from Snapshot Press
First published by Wales Haiku Journal September 2018