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Friday, 11 September 2015

Nyla Matuk on André Naffis-Sahely’s "A Kind of Love"

A Kind of Love by André Naffis-Sahely

We loved luxury and ate like pigs, 
but our room, unborn as yet,
was bare; it was a new building,
and when we moved in, the landlord

looked us over and said: ‘No noise 
after eleven please’. Obediently, 
for the most part, we adhered,
and kept the ancient record player

(among the only things of mine
to survive the neglect and the moths) 

at its lowest; although money
was scarce, vinyl records were cheap

and we took advantage.
Halfway through the tenancy,
I got your name mixed up with 

another woman’s and, quite rightly,

without a word, you took your leave; 
taking very little except the needle 
you knew full well was irreplaceable, 
unlike our short-lived kind of love.


from New Poetries VI © André Naffis-Sahely

André Naffis-Sahely’s “A Kind of Love” is a study of attachment and loss (love and death) but also a story of indulgence and deprivation, and the poet has managed to stitch together these correlated themes to present, by the end of the poem, a twist on what begins as a happily-ever-after narrative.

Excesses meet enforced stoicism when a couple in love with luxury moves into a bare room, an antiseptic space in a new building where the landlord requests “no noise after eleven please,” which hints at a dearth of the night-time lovemaking noises one might expect to hear from two bon-vivants living under the same roof. An ancient record player is also played low—foreshadowing already that walking on eggshells may have been the order of the day, a kind of dance that begs to be transgressed. And transgressed, it ends up, when the speaker confuses his lover’s name with the name of another woman; the kind of ‘skip’ to be expected when playing vinyl, when being so careful that the seemingly mundane, the taken-for-fact, is entirely wronged. One almost can’t help making such a slip, like laughing at a serious matter due to nervousness. And in this misprision, full ruination ensues.

On departure, the lover takes the record player needle, the one irreplaceable possession of the speaker’s which, thus considered, should have been thought at least as valuable as his lover’s name, but alas, was not. Like devouring a sumptuous meal (“we ate like pigs”) too quickly, the naming error underscored the “short-lived kind of love” i.e., one that is impossible to develop further especially in a place where noise must be minimized after 11. In this poem of reckoning on a chapter in the past, a living condition (no noise), a word (the wrong woman’s name) and an object (the record player needle) all conspire to achieve a totality of qualified, compromised love, “a kind of love.”

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