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English: G-Spot Vibrator

English: G-Spot Vibrator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Buy Profit and Loss from Cape Poetry

There is something uncanny about houses. Especially other people’s and especially shared ones. A few years ago I stayed with a friend, the curate in a Roman Catholic parish. The priests were accommodated in a large communal house, and my bedroom adjoined the Parish Priest’s. The first night, I was awoken by a sharp, repeated swish – loud, even through the wall. A smothering dread pressed upon me. What was he doing in there? Would he come in here? The second night was the same and so, over the washing up bowl the next morning, I shared my fear with my friend. He laughed, pointing to the horde of golf trophies in the dining room, and explained that the PP had been honing his swing. This was all very well, but I had never actually seen him swing a golf club. In my nightmare he might as well have been (best) Silas from The Da Vinci Code, or (worst) Maynard the gimp keeper from Pulp Fiction.

In The Vibrator, the disturbing and supernatural is immediately at play, as the outgoing tenant ‘walked / like a mournful ghost through the blank, familiar rooms’. The stanza reaches a delicious, comic climax as the tenant finally wonders ‘where was the vibrator?’ The bathos of the mock-heroic ‘Oh cruel Gods!’ makes this poem light on its feet and there are echoes of Pope’s The Rape of the Lock (another storm in a tea-cup). A whole series of lines opens with ‘Oh’ in a glorious suggestion of sexual play. But the poem shifts and darkens again in the final stanza as ‘the vibrator / still beats, in the dark, its battery-powered heart’. Depending on how you look at it, there’s something tragic about this bright bit of plastic, probably useless in a house rented by ‘four Polish men’. However, the dark imagery and the hidden heart remind the reader of Poe’s creepy The Tell-Tale Heart. Okay, the misplaced vibrator is a great laugh, but who is buried under the floorboards?

Flynn has an eye for detail, and can make even the most humble object speak. In The Floppy Disk, this technological flotsam is given a glorious second life as a keeper of arcane secrets and as an exquisite, archaic object. It is ‘A castaway on shingly paper clips’ and ‘The stainless-steel clip shines, the neat black case / still sleek as a woman’s suit or evening purse’. This is beautifully observed writing. Those metal clips always sprang back with a satisfying snap. The carapace of the ‘floppy’ disc was there to protect secrets and so Flynn’s yonic imagery is spot-on and evokes Plath’s A Birthday Present.

These poems are a brilliant, true, understated exploration of modern life with a haunting, playful gothic edge. If you’ve every heard a troubling swish in the night, or discovered the unexpected gifts left by the outgoing tenants, then there is something here for you.