This week’s Poem of the Week is not unlike last week’s in that it too conveys a lot in relatively few words. Spencer Reece expresses and compresses so much with one modest but surprisingly potent image in a brief section from “The Prodigal Son”. The entire poem of which this selection is part is one of the longer, short-story-like selections from his collection The Road to Emmaus, which was shortlisted for the 2014 Griffin Poetry Prize.
Biblical connections are ever-present but never heavy-handed throughout this collection, as we discovered and enjoyed in Reece’s poems “The Fifth Commandment” and “1 Corinthians 13”. We expect Reece will weave in the parable of the prodigal son in a similarly unassuming yet quietly profound fashion.
The bishop and the priest narrating this poem (the central figure of The Road to Emmaus, as described here) meet to discuss prodigious concerns made weightier by the feeling that their “professional talk is measured by the silence of the dead”. How are they to contend with the issues detailed in those reports with that imposing sense hanging over them?
The image of the paperweight provides unlikely solace. It is securing all the stories and attendant worries in those reports, anchoring and harbouring “all that business in life that remains unrehearsed”, offering the stability that the proverbial prodigal son and all other “children turning to their parents” seek. For at least this segment of the story, we feel reassured that “the work of the living and the dead” will be handled with firm equanimity.