Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Steve Whitaker
Literary Editor
7:10 AM 4th May 2024

Poem Of The Week: Great Expectations By Doreen Gurrey

Great Expectations

I’m reading it again, struck this time by the names –
Pip, a chirrup of a boy, Magwitch mad with hate,
and there, between the pages where Pip steals the pie
then ferrets a file down his trousers,
there’s a note from you to my brother,
Tea in oven, Tomo called round, bus back at 6.

And it would please you to know I imagine it came
from Pip’s own mother, who is not dead, but has left it propped
up against the clock where he can read that his tea is still warm,
that he has a friend as stolid as his name.

I’ve kept it since in a drawer, along with the photo of you
waving from the steps of a coach, off to the coast
with the Wednesday Wives’ Club, and realize now how you
always accounted for your absences, always left something of yourself
to fill the gap between your leaving and your coming back.

The past steals in like a whispered gesture in the poems of Doreen Gurrey. In ‘Great Expectations’, a note insinuated into the pages of a book surprises the narrator into a moment of warm remembrance. Transfigured into an elegiac reverie by the picaresque suggestiveness of Dickens’ novel, the memory of the mother figure is seamlessly displaced as she re-emerges, whole and giving, in the guise of Pip’s own mother, whose imagined kindness completes a circle of maternal love.

Part gentle apostrophic address, part reflection, Gurrey’s poem alchemises a genuinely moving sense of familial unity from the negotiated wisdom of remembrance. The received effect, in this simple poem of changeful rhythms, is of surety of affection, of the certainty of love, tendered quietly and without ceremony. The mother remains, never far away, her image burnished by the little, seemingly insignificant, notes; the leavings of herself are glittering resonances, like the dust from a moth’s broken wing, and the note is a bookmark, a reminder of a loved one’s place in the family continuum.

‘Great Expectations’ is taken from A Coalition of Cheetahs, published by smith|doorstop (2024)