EDIT *Apologies – for some reason this post didn’t publish automatically yesterday. Instead it went to my draft folder and sat there!*
I wrote this in a temper, in a rush, in one go.
I think this is the angriest poem in the book.
they tried to make me say your name
Who is ‘they’? I cannot say.
I still cannot say the name.
Naming things is one of the ways we make sense of the world. A name is a pact between ourselves, that we are talking about the same thing, that we mean the same thing.
Across cultures and religions, the act of naming the universe is a common genesis story. Adam named the animals to gain dominion over them.
Jo Bell’s poem ‘Crates’ takes a slightly different approach to the act of naming. It starts ‘Observe when I speak of crates/your mind supplies one straight away’ and then goes on to outline the different types of crates that the reader might be thinking of.
I remember when I first heard this poem. The last three lines, the trick, the turn, the surprise of the poem, felt like the neatest fitting lid on a box. After pointing out that merely speaking the word ‘crates’ conjures one into existence, the poem concludes
‘Now, let us speak of love.’
When I read this poem, it helped me understand my strange reaction, my strange rule/law around speaking/not speaking a name. If speaking a name doesn’t give you power over something, but instead conjures it into existence…
Because they tried to make me say your name,
the shame and blame and frame of it,
the dirty little game of it, the dark and distant
heart of it, the cannot be a part of it,
the bringing back the taste of it till I was changed
inside the flame of it, the cut and slap and shut
of it, the rut and fuck and muck of it,
the not-forgotten hurt of it, they syllable
stop-dead of it, the starting at the throat of it,
the ending at the teeth of it.