Review

Me and Galileo, Lyn Moir.

£4.00 UK post free. (ISBN 978-0-9540913-1-6) Arrowhead Press, 70 Clifton Road, Darlington, Co. Durham, DL1 5DX

This pamphlet is a sequence of passionate love poems about a relationship with an older man, begun in youth, interrupted by half a busy lifetime and rekindled for a brief epiphany at the end of his life.

The poems explore themes of innocence, lust awakened and re-awakened and the persistence of love. They explore the fascination of a young woman for an older, charismatic and knowledgeable man, a man of science. We'll call him, as Lyn Moir does, Galileo: a man who investigated stars and committed heresy. A man who could laugh, a man who could teach, a man who could make love, a man who 'unravelled prisms' for her and knew how to do hard crosswords. A man who could tango.

Galileo, met again when he is extremely old, still evokes, 'lust, stripped of its public face and/ down to flesh and bone laid bare/naked in its honesty.' Herein lies the power of these poems. They are not about two old fogies finding a bit of late-in-the-day comfort, but about passionate everlasting love in practice. They honour a number of romantic, some would say clicheed notions: that we do not grow much older inside, that certain couples are 'programmed for loving' each other, that love conquers age. Reading the poems I wondered, with a hint of envy, whether these things could be true but I could tell that Moir was telling the truth. I also experienced a slightly uncomfortable frisson that lust, extreme old age and death could be poised in such close proximity, could inhabit the same hospital bed. This subject matter requires careful treatment to avoid tragi-comedy, mawkish sentimantality, unconvincing overstatement. And it gets careful treatment. These are delicate, wry poems which with humour, and honest self-observation investigate the overarching connections between past and present, coming to a plain and nurturing truth – love gets under the skin and stays there.

Moir uses the vocabulary of science wittily and effectively: the lovers are 'isochronous', 'Heat flows naturally from a hot object to a cold object', 'You understood light, knew / its properties, its genesis', as well as more conventional descriptions of nature: 'We sat on broad, flat sandstone rocks / rimming the sharp clear sea'. Old age is described delicately too:

'I trace my finger slowly / over peaks marking the decades / of a rosary of bone' And like the pared down body of the man so too the bodies of the poems are pared down. Each one whether in rhyme and meter or free form is reduced to its essence — an idea, a description, a memory. In their brevity is their intensity. For my money the best realised poem is a seven liner, Mouth Music:

When I spoke with you again I found
an echo of my native language,
long neglected, lining every word,
and took from you vocabulary,
pebbles unaccustomed in my mouth
fitting underneath my tongue like teeth
ground smooth by years of uneasy dreams.

It subtly reminds us how important early relationships deeply affect our mode of being for the rest of our lives. It is a poem of homecoming in all senses of the word, quietly underscored by its title.

Only here and there do we get a hint that these predestined lovers parted in anger. The title poem, Me and Galileo tells us: 'I said I'd had enough... I'm neither ball and chain nor bit of fluff'. And in The Photograph, an acquaintance remarks, '"He thinks he's God"'. The lack of narrative information is one aspect of the intensity of these poems and therefore appropriate to their intention but I do long to know more. In fact, inquisitively I want to know the whole story. Who is Galileo? How did they meet? Why did they part? How did the intervening section of their lives work out? I can't help hoping for the follow-up novel, which I will certainly buy.

Hylda Sims - Second Light Newsletter


Copyright © 2004 Arrowhead Press
Last modified: March 28th 2005