Poem of the week: Fiona Moore – ‘The Shirt’

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A recent biography of David Foster Wallace was titled Every Love Story is a Ghost Story. Fiona Moore’s poetry collection, The Only Reason for Time (HappenStance, £4), elaborates on that thought.

At the heart of this deeply-felt debut are a number of poems haunted by the premature death of her partner. A poem like “The Shirt” takes an ordinary object and shows how it is fraught with the circumstances of his passing and yet also evokes more tender moments.

I didn’t find it for months, your shirt

bundled into a corner in the airing cupboard.

I shook it out. It had been cut

with long cuts, all the way up the sleeves

and up the front, so it looked like a plan

of something about to be put together.

They must have had to work so fast to

save you there was no time to unbutton it.

An office shirt, because that’s where

it happened. The thin stripes slashed through –

terrifying, unprecedented – a reminder

of everything I wanted to forget.

I’d washed it afterwards, not knowing what to do

with it, or that in three weeks the same thing

would happen to another shirt, a favourite,

dull cotton whose thick weave made it look

as if all the pink shell-grains of sand

had come together on one beach,

a shirt for a gentle hug; and from then on,

nothing happened that we would forget.

You can borrow The Only Reason for Time by Fiona Moore from the Scottish Poetry Library, 5 Crichton’s Close, Edinburgh EH8 8DT. Tel: 0131-557 2876, e-mail reception@spl.org.uk, or see www.spl.org.uk for details.