Poem introduction

I used to live in London close to a taxidermist shop called Get Stuffed, and I used to stop on my way home in front of the shop window and stare at the creatures there, and I became intrigued by their eyes especially, and how stuffed animals’ eyes have that look that’s both very dead and very alive; and I went into the shop once and asked the man behind the counter, ‘who does your eyes?’ and he looked at me and said: ‘I have a little man in Wales’, and that gave me this poem.

The Fitter

It can take days. The vision, you see, is vital,
without it, it's nothing - a soft toy
. Pass me
my eyes, pointing to an old biscuit tin.

It's a kind of hunting all over again, with books
open, photos pinned, ready with needle
and glue. They caught the body years ago,
that was the easy part. But he speaks now

of a soul; what, for instance, did the creature see?
Moorland, scrub, veld, or sodden jungle,
desert, wood, the same indigo skies?
The man who fits the eyes has never left

his semi in Cardiff, but he's a master of precision,
nothing's too small, or extinct. Recently
though, a slip in concentration perhaps -
an upright grizzly in the Natural History 

has the eyes of a man stranded in his front room,
the telly blizzarding, the fire gone dead;
a bison's head looms out of a wall, dazed,
like a woman just woken, sleep crusting her eyes;

and a pair of monkeys stare out from a London window,
like lovers come to the end, at a loss
in front of what has been, what is to come,
deaf to the whirr and gong of the clock on the hour.

His eyes brim at night from all the detail. 
There's a tea-towel over the mirror and it takes him a while
to sleep. Everything's always awake, he says. 


from At Home in the Dark (Anvil, 2001), © Greta Stoddart 2001, used by permission of the author and the publishers

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Recordings

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1The Convert

2Errand

3Allies

4A Hundred Sheep in a Green Field

5The Fitter

6The Night We Stole a Full-length Mirror

7Greece

8The List

9Husband

10Waving Goodbye to the Elegists

11Convalescence

12Object

13Pupil

14A Puzzle in Four Seasons

15Salvation Jane

16The Wait

17You drew breath

18Matter

19At Play

20Verfremdungseffekt

21Philosophy for Children

22Counting

23The Engraver

24The Curtain

25Lifeguard

26Lamb

27Daughter

28Deep Sea Diver

29Voicemail

30ICU

31And here you are

32All those turning

33Letter from Sido

34Two o’clock

35Boy with Candle

36Skull and Hourglass

37Fire on the Beach

Books by Greta Stoddart