Steve Whitaker, Literary Editor
Poem Of The Week: 'Second Person' By Sam Gardiner (1936-2016)
You rush into the shopping arcade
and step aside to avoid the mirror-clad pillar
When you meet yourself rushing out.
Swiftly you pass, and may even glance
over your shoulder just in time to glimpse
yourself spinning on your heel,
wondering which of you is real. As I did,
before hurrying off, getting home first
and trying to persuade her there was only one
of me. But apparently she had always known
there were two, and the one she loved
should soon be home, if I’d care to wait.
Good, I think, to chuck a little poignant levity into the mix to lighten the burden of weekly poetic gravity. And in Northern Irish poet, Sam Gardiner’s, short excursion in-through-the-out-door, we have a witty vignette which plays with the idea of distorted perception in a shop’s mirrored pillars. For what is intended to yield the illusion of commercial space, is given over to a doubling of identity.
The conundrum of Gardiner’s misplacement of his narrator is described in persuasive half-rhyme: the ‘glance’ and ‘glimpse’ of his second tercet are neat dispersions of the revolving door of mistaken identity, just as the ‘heel’ and ‘real’ which span the second and third introduce the possibility of a re-affirmation of the narrative voice.
Consonant with the odd circularity of his theme, the second-person distancing of the poem’s protagonist is restored to a version of reality in the poem’s final line – a reality which the figure of the beloved does not recognise.
A reminder of the conditional nature of perception in a world of fake news and negotiated truth, Sam Gardiner’s fine poem of love and ambiguity remains timely.
‘Second Person’ is taken from Old City, New Rumours – A Hull Anthology
, edited by Ian Gregson and Carol Rumens, and published by Five Leaves Publications.