Alison Brackenbury’s ‘Bookkeeping’

Alison Brackenbury

Alison Brackenbury

Alison Brackenbury was born in Lincolnshire in 1953. She now lives in Gloucestershire, where she has worked for almost twenty years in the family metal finishing business. Her work has appeared in over fifty anthologies and has won an Eric Gregory Award and a Cholmondeley Award. She has recently scripted three programmes for BBC Radio 3, including Singing in the Dark, a celebration of the stubborn survival of traditional song: ‘Evocative, amusing, and utterly compelling’, Radio Times Choice. Her latest collection is Singing in the Dark (Carcanet, 2008). ‘A quiet lyricism and delight’, The Guardian ‘Mellifluous art’, Poetry Review, ‘Grace and authenticity’, Poetry London. New poems can be read at her site. Visit Alison’s Carcanet author page.
Alison Brackenbury

These are not (you understand) the figures
which send cold judgement into the backbone
which leave us, workless, shrunk at home
staring in a sky grown black with leaves.
These are like the ticking of a clock,
the daily sums, a van’s new brakes,
three drums of trichloroethylene on the back
of a thrumming lorry; yet they take
a day to make: thin bars of figures. While
I try to balance them, light scurries round
like a glad squirrel. Radio music stales –
until shut off.
What’s left when it is done,
the green book closed? There is no sea to swim
no mouth to kiss. Even the light is gone.
Bookkeepers drink over-sugared tea
lie in dark rooms; are always hunched and tired.
Where I stretch up the low bulb burns and whirls.
And in it, I see him. The dusky gold wing folds
across his face. The feathers’ sharp tips smudge
his margins.
Sunk, in his own shadows, deep
in scattered ledgers of our petty sins:
he, the tireless angel:
Unaccountably, he sleeps.
Published in Alison Brackenbury’s Selected Poems (Carcanet, 1991).
Read an interview with Alison published in Iota.
Order Alison’s latest collection, Singing in the Dark (Carcanet, 2008).
Order Alison’s latest pamphlet, Shadow (HappenStance, 2009).

3 thoughts on “Alison Brackenbury’s ‘Bookkeeping’

  1. Julie

    Wonderful poem. I also enjoyed the interview, especially the comments on “unintentional swerves in form.” I learn something new every time I visit peony moon. Thanks, Michelle.

  2. Michelle Post author

    Hi Jules, I love: “A poem comes best when it is waited for. It is like listening for a bird” and “Recognising merit in a poem is almost a physical instinct, I find; if I am listening to poetry, a good poem slips in through the soles of the feet”.

  3. dale

    I love how gently but decisively this poem keeps refusing to fulfill expectation. It has all the odd, sideways delight and dissatisfaction of ordinary life in it.

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