In wardrobes, ties hang like curing fish, patterns like smoke. (In restaurants, avoid kippers and sauce.)
‘She said she wasn’t ready to be tied down. I was gutted.’
It’s the ties that bind. In class, at an interview, at weddings. All those boys getting hurt under their
collars. Man, it’s their funeral.
Ties are universal: presenters of International Poverty Specials receive faxes about their ties.
Spokesmen, always getting themselves in knots.
Bosses have a million hang-ups, but they keep you in suspense. They say: ‘Don’t get shirty with me!’
Fractal teardrops are called ‘Paisley pattern’, but they happen to be Indian. They’re diamonds,
stretching a point – to the end of the Silk Road.
A moth started all this, a moth will finish it.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2009. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2009 was Andrew Greig.
I spent some time dithering over which poem to pick from this arresting collection. It was hard to turn away from any poem offered as a lyric for an imaginary band The Loss Adjusters (I’d like to see them go head to head with my short-lived imaginary punk group Anger Management). There’s a rapid, compressed, fractured demotic in Price’s poems that is utterly fresh and takes a bit of adjusting to. Many of them are pinned down by casual, full rhyme – weirdly reminiscent of young Auden – but the one I’ve selected here is an atypical, unrhymed prose poem. I love this for its opening and closing lines, the swerves of tone, and because it’s all true, when you think about it, as you’re invited to.
‘Ties’ is a companion piece to a poem I wrote many years earlier, ‘Tights’, which appears in Perfume and Petrol Fumes (1999). In both I was fascinated by the gendered nature of these articles of clothing. Although each can, of course, be worn by man or woman, that is not the usual way of it and so I wanted to suggest or imagine immediate and historical reasons why that might not be so. All items of clothing are made of threads or skins or polymers of history. They are made up of layers not just of material but of trade and conquest; sexual politics may be “bound up” with their production and so their reception. I think often about the prose-poems of Francis Ponge – his lyrical way of describing a mussel, a snail, a door – and those of Harryette Mullen – especially her evocations of consumer products – and the prose-poetry form seemed to fit ‘Ties’ just as well.