The Lock and the Key by Scarlett Sabet
Zoreh Publishing Limited 2016
£9.99 (Paperback) 71pp.
When training to be an actress as teenager Scarlett Sabet began scribbling down notes and ideas in her moleskin. Little did she realise that these scribblings would alter her career path and lead to the publication of Rocking Underground in 2014, her first volume of poems. Whilst acknowledging that she gained valuable experience from acting it is clear that writing is her great passion. The Lock and the Key, Sabet’s latest poetic offering is a melange of fiction, events that have happened in Sabet’s life and thoughts on some of the more disturbing events that have happened around the world recently. In Cut Up she employs the literary technique of the same name made popular by William Burroughs in the 1950’s and 60s to try and understand the madness that is fuelling the media this year. In the case of the Bataclan shootings in Paris for example, she claims, “I wanted to write an epic poem to immortalise that moment in time. A literary snap shot to make sense of it myself as it all seemed so senseless. I thought I’d narrowed it down but then something else cataclysmic would happen in the news. So I got all these pieces of paper and cut out what I needed and used the cut out technique.” The results are interesting and highlight Sabet’s natural ability to tell a story and her gift for rhyming. This is not surprising considering music and performance have played an important part in Sabet’s life. Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, which she claimed her parents would listen too over and over, was a profound influence on her work as was Bob Dylan. These great musicians, are of course, great story tellers and wordsmiths, and this is what Ocean we find Sabet’s doing with some success throughout this volume.
There is an intense energy in Sabet’s work and Ocean is a classic example of how she uses poetry to harness emotion and passion. There is an eroticism here too, identifiable by her use of water imagery. Water is quite literally Sabet in her element and the method she employs to express complex ideas of feeling. There’s a tidal force here: “As he yielded to her/it crept open/Drew back to reveal teeth that were pleased/The lips pursed in punctuations of passion, and she submitted to/that.’ Sabet claims ‘I wrote Ocean on the morning of the 15th February 2016, I had all those thoughts and images in my head, wrote them down and nothing needed rearranging’ It’s my favourite. I hadn’t written anything like that before’. Writing poetry gives Sabet a sense of fearlessness she had not previously experienced. It is this new found sense of liberation and sense of fearlessness that has allowed her door to be unlocked and walk out into a sunrise over new horizons.
Sabet is reading from The Lock and the Key at Shakespeare and Company in Paris in July and will be performing at several different events over the summer.
She knew of his eyes
The intensity of their smile
But she always focused on his mouth.
It’s mystery and promise
And in time she knew it to be the most honest.
As he yielded to her,
It crept open,
Drew back to reveal teeth that were pleased.
The lips pursed in punctuations of passion, and she submitted to that,
Frozen, then receiving, a whole day of pretence shattered.
In times surrounded by others, she watched
His walls shut down around them
Like a chain link fence
Visible they stayed but impenetrable.
And when there was nothing left to say,
He let his mouth draw a cruel line under it all
She saw safety in its severity, sought out,
Sought it, brought it back to life.
And in the middle of the night
She would watch his mouths open curl, snarl of pleasure.
And it told her more than his body ever could.
A city rat,
Dressed in black
Trying to block out the pain
The thought’s that make you go insane
That crawl inside your brain, when you weren’t looking
Distracted by hunger and fame
And the simplicity of your day to day pain
Until you wake up
Look in the mirror
Realise you’re not the same
You keep separating your brain
But you try to assimilate
Continue to be the same
In your own unique way
Jump on the great city train,
Give up your seat,
Get on your knees, and exclaim – All Hail! King of all things the same!
Sit back down
Sit yourself down
Put your brain back down, back to sleep
Hush your sound
Because your talk’s too loud for things above ground
So let the rhythm rock you
Carry you down
Where it all smells the same,
The girls are so pretty
They all look the same
So don’t blame your brain,
Don’t explain, don’t talk
All the sounds underground make the same sense
They don’t carry a sound
So just keep rocking underground
Pins pull back skin
To reveal raw nerves
Beneath the lamp light
While the moon outside is bright
And my breath is visible
Above the ground
Yet the trees are flowering all around
I watch the limits of city justice stretch
To its extremes
Some get away with nothing
Others reign supreme
Some kind of eagle once flied
But now the birds
Just seem to cry
Grief fills the sky
As another unarmed man dies
And I watch from the shadows in the gaps of my fingers as
Spring brings a new rage
Marked up like the others
But there’s no change
People form broken sentences
To structure the shame
Can words anticipate change?
Or will fire have to burn the change?
Burn with their rage
Pleading for justice it seems
It falls on deaf ears
As the order that follows
Confirms our fears
They bind us with a badge that ties
They sold the cross for a lie
And bruises come black and blue
How they were promised to you
I wonder if they sleep at night ?
Sometimes I’m surprised by dawn light,
How it comes to find me,
Empty echoes find me in my head all the time
They sold the cross for a lie I wore it around my neck it was hollow, and empty, and dead, as it dropped to the floor
The music in my head won’t let me rest
You were humming it when we met
That’s how I knew
You had tasted cruel justice too
All the freer now things are clearer
To be revealed
Evil little shapes
Now we read Evil Flowers in their place
Your mouth still tastes like tears and thirst
Your touch still gets me like
The very first
Infuse these words of mine
Drip down, let it become she and him,
Tiny breaths in her chest
Trapped in her ribs
Like the one he gave up for her
Feathers scratch the inside of her lungs
As she comes
Birdlike, quivering under the vibrations of his breath,
And she learned the magick of an innocent
She came to crave under the palm black and inky
Tremors learnt in the muscles
Skull lit up
Each more vivid
Skin pale and shadowed
Just tell tale signs of where the blood goes
He signalled every mark beneath her eye socket
Muscles relay the tremors
And the knowledge of him is now in her bones
All copyright Scarlett Sabet