a dripping tap
Marilyn in New York
necking to almost wasp waisted thinness,
‘till it releases the elegant gem, splitting sunlight
into a blaze of red green blue gone
and impacts with ear jarring sound, leaps up again,
beautiful, as a spreading crown and
The continual noise has awoken her, so
Marilyn moves to the faucet where
another drop has begun to swell. She watches
as it slowly builds from tiny pimple to
full grown boil, sees her own reflection in
its full grown curvature, looks
as the imaged phantom tumbles
into the sink.
She knows Arthur will return home soon and
the steady fall will be no longer hers.
In the shining chrome she sees herself reach forward,
her own distorted hand now hides her body,
and she withdraws to stare again, sighs, looks up
to see if she is there, still in control, still in the centre, and
the drop emerges, elongated…
© Martin Porter 2005
“a dripping tap” won the Jersey Arts Trust Channel Island Writers’ Competition 2005 and is published in the Channel Island Writers’ Anthology 2005.
“a dripping tap” was inspired by my fascination with the marriage of Marilyn Monroe to Arthur Miller. It incorporates elements of an earlier poem based on the observations of raindrops striking the windscreen of a car.
In the Judge’s report, Linda Rose Parkes wrote “Ambition doesn’t show itself in the choice of the subject; very often it’s in the common, the everyday, where an exciting strangeness is lurking when we look more closely. But where the subject is large – say in the evocation of the grand emotions and those contexts – then the voice of the poem is circumspect and careful not to turn the volume up so loud that it’s difficult for the reader to find the silence to listen and feel within its framework. Martin Porter chose a pedestrian image, a dripping tap in a well documented life, in order to offer a glimpse of an interior landscape in its loneliness and isolation.”
“a dripping tap” is a poem that developed over a long period but took only a short time to sketch out. Polishing to produce the final product took place over a few weeks and was helped by my participation in an innominate group of writers in one of their monthly meetings. The earlier poem “Driving Rain” was written six years before in 1999, and “a dripping tap” is one of a sequence of poems based around the notion of Marilyn Monroe (rather than the reality), that I started writing in 2004. The earliest of that sequence “Arthur drives his wife home after a shopping trip” won the second prize in the Jersey Evening Post writers’ competition in 2004.
It has been commented that some of the imagery in the poem is closely observed. The first stanza reflects this close observation, but not as consciously as might be imagined. Much of the imagery here may be unusual to note for many, but coming from a background based in the physical sciences, the formation and necking of a liquid drop, the crown splash caused by a drop of liquid falling into a shallow resevoir and the refraction of light into its component colours by a droplet are all familiar experiences, as are the distorted images in the convex chrome reflector of the taps or faucet.
Other observations that have been made are based around the notions of beauty and sexuality. The growth of the drop from tiny pimple to boil and the distortions of the reflections are deliberately juxtaposed onto this notion of beauty, illustrated by the wasp waisted thinness of the neck of the drop. There are also hints of an artificial, or assumed, beauty in adornment-based phrases including the crown, the jewel-like colours reflected from the drop which I hope would be associated with the expense of diamonds, reinforced by the “elegant gem” and the slightly more extended artificiality of the “shining” surface layer of chrome. There are hints of the fragility, or deception, of this beauty in the way the word “beautiful” is ambiguously linked with the phrase “ebbs away” by the use of punctuation – yes, the comma is deliberate, the phrase “imaged phantom” and the way the image is hidden by a hand.
What of those grand emotions? Perhaps we are all ordinary and all extraordinary in our own way. I have tried to convey a sense of ennui and dissatisfaction with fame and celebrity in this work. A dripping tap seemed to be a perfect illustration of how boredom due to repeated action strikes even the rich and famous.
Interestingly, and unexpectedly, I have found that the poem has created some of its own mystery. Although mentioned only briefly, I failed to realise the significance of the role Arthur Miller would play in the creation of an oppressive atmosphere hinted at in the poem.
In her judges report, Linda spoke of a “fierce respect for language”. In this poem, the language has worked hard with single words often performing several tasks, phraseology having to shape an atmosphere and give structure to a piece that seems to have lost its beginning and end in a continuous cycle and the punctuation providing a framework despite having to be deliberately sparse.
This is a poem I return to time and time again. I assume it is one of the better poems I have written, but I cannot know that with any certainty. It isn’t deliberately complex, but it ends up exploring some difficult concepts, challenging my notions of satisfaction, happiness, relationship and celebrity.