Heavy Poems with a Light Touch–Acrobats of Sound

Acrobats of Sound by Colin Pink

Poetry Salzburg, University of Salzburg, Austria, 2016

If not for the radiant twinkle, the sparkle of hope that readers of Pink’s verse have come to expect, some of the themes in Acrobats of Sound might weigh down our hearts. To his and his editors’ credit, Acrobats of Sound unfolds with wordplay that makes the reader smile in delight and lean forward in anticipation of the next whimsical juxtaposition, as in “The Pencil Fears the Eraser”:

The blind man’s memory is touching

A bone dreams of finding a buried dog.

The film stars’ smiles go out at night.

A lighthouse dreams it’s lost in the fog.

A jug pours emptiness out of itself.

The ringing silence of the blue bells.

The true secretly loves the false.

A demon vacations to warmer hells.

A lost postcard misses the sea.

The ledge is scared to look down.

The weather never complains.

A fake smile betrays the frown.

A fish never sees the sea even on holiday.

The umbrella tingles at the touch of raindrops.

A letterbox swallows every word.

The stage is wary of anxious theatre props.

A clock is never impatient no matter how late.

A stone never hides its feelings.

The pencil fears the eraser is always behind it.

The paper slowly unfolds its meanings.

In his stories and theatrical productions, Pink is known for a light touch that exposes the wounds of mankind unexpectedly, but not without hope. His nimbly astute eye seems never to blink, for he snares the tiniest memorable details, the truisms that we otherwise might miss for turning our heads or sipping tea. That is how he asks us to reconsider post-traumatic stress disorder in “Return of the Warrior” or the trivializing of war memories in “American Civil War Bubblegum Cards.” In the latter poem he says he almost sees himself, for “in one scene a little boy is hanged as a spy; he looked a bit like me, it made me feel sad, I guess that’s what it was meant to do.”

Pink’s appreciation of art and his endless temptation to juxtapose contradictory concepts show up in “The Raft of Medusa” which

hangs in the Louvre, its cargo of corpses, glinting

Beneath brown varnish, like celebrities caught

In a reality TV programme, permanently on pause.

The canvas is indeed so big, in an emergency we could

Actually use it as a raft, float down the Seine, astonish

The flaneurs as we wave from our improvised bateau.

Let’s run through the salons, like cool sixties movie

Icons, not care how many tourists we knock over,

In our race to prove we are still able to misbehave.

A poet wouldn’t be one without contemplating our tragedies, and from the “Panther in the City,” “Elegy for NYC” and the darkness who “cultivates your cowardice” in “Darkness Spoken,” Pink reminds readers that we might fall backwards into depravity at any moment. What else was the use of Lee Miller’s photography, Pink seems to suggest in “Lee Miller in Hitler’s Tub.” Both poet and publisher want to help us refocus, for the only illustration in the entire collection is a cobblestone printed along with “The Cobblestones of Berlin.”

Aside from his great love of art, Pink demonstrates an unwavering fascination with philosophy, which he studied at the University of Southampton. It is hard not to wonder whether his professors of philosophy received the double-entendres that regale the readers of Acrobats of Sound. We can get a peek of Pink’s mischief inside “Pandora’s Box”:

You would not know,

to look at it,

what it is.

A plain, unadorned,       

rather worn, wooden box

No warning signs

attached to it.

No Health & Safety

stickers seal it.

No seal at all

protects it.

It invites opening

with mute resignation.

Go on, don’t resist,

open it;

you know you want to.

Let’s find out what’s inside it;

you can’t stand idle beside it.

How does it feel

when you touch it?

Is it cold or warm

with something

                                broiling within?

What’s that tapping I hear?

O, just your impatient foot.

Go on, no one’s looking,

                do it now!

You know you’ll feel

So much easier

when everything is

out in the open.