Sunday, June 14, 2015

Tuesday Poem - 'The detective's chair' by Anne M. Carson

The detective's chair

threadbare, stained with old Guinness, splashes of double malt.
Rebus sits into the early hours pooled in moonlight, neon,
dappled with despair, ensconced in smelly, smoky fug.
He looks unseeing over night-time Edinburgh, shoos ghosts
back into the past, ignores conflicts with the brass, other cops,
even manages to bypass self-recrimination, regret, that
quagmire of his multiple failings. He comes to the centre
of concern, the current case. He may not be quite sober but
the blur is better. You can't bludgeon hunches out of hiding,
have to be willing to hang out in their vicinity, hope they
show their heads. He sinks another inch or two of whisky,
the better to see into the shadows, last the night through.
He nods off, as usual, the LP crackling as it spins, still
seeking the glimmer of clues nestled between hard facts.

Erlundur comes home after a brittle day. Nothing has broken
open in the case of the murdered boy, no motive, weapon
not even a maybe suspect to pin their hopes upon. His chair
sits by the window, blond wood waiting to welcome him.
He leaves the light off, sinks into low-slung, leather-
upholstered ease, letting his mind loose from its leash. He
offers his tired thoughts, his despair to the open sky. They
dissolve in its infinite space. His ghosts visit him – unsettling
spectres from the past. He sighs, allows them their due. Gone
midnight, Reykjavik. He always means to get up, go to bed,
but dawn often finds him curled into the contours of the chair,
cold, cramped. He goes over the facts one more time, teases
them apart to see what can be glimpsed through the cracks.

Wallander jerks awake, heart jumping. He's on the sofa again
grabbing a few hours, still surrounded by dirty laundry. Not time
enough this case for a leisurely chair by the window, letting
patterns emerge, even Puccini is relegated to a back seat.
This time its a serial killer. He snatches thinking-space
between developments on a bleached beach at Malmö Harbour,
Copenhagen smudged in a haze across the Sound. Or shut-eyed,
slumped on vinyl in his Volvo at the Ystad crime scene. Even
flat on his back in a locked conference room, desperate for
a few motionless moments to let his thoughts roam unfettered.
A niggle, just out of reach, an uneasy ache he knows holds
vital clues. Something someone said or didn't say; elusive
since the first murder. If only he could sit and listen long
enough for it to unfurl, it could crack the case wide open.

This poem really sparked with me, ever since Anne tabled an early draft at our
workshop. It's not just because, I think, I hope, that  I am a huge fan of detective
fiction, although I am, but also because I was so energised by the way Anne infers
that the writing of a poem, usually with a bum in a chair, has intimate parallels with
the parading of clues through a nerveless mind. So the premise of the poem
caught my attention, and then there's the way Anne handles it so deftly. It's a
lovely triptych of technical and artistic delights.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this, both in itself as a poem and as a tribute to three great characters of police procedural fiction.

    By the way, I have just received my copy of "This City" and am looking forward to spending time with it once I am out of current copyedit mode.