Lime Kiln Quay Road by Ben Ladouceur
Published by above/ground press, 2014. The first edition of Lime Kiln Quay Road was published in 2011.
According to Louise Gluck (who appears in quotes on the title page), reactions to “the open” begin with longing and end with joy, leaving “in the middle, tedium”. Whether that trajectory of spirit appears saddle-shaped or as a steady rise depends on how character building you consider tedium, but there’s no question it’s the most pliable force in Ben Ladouceur’s Lime Kiln Quay Road. The first of twenty entries, numbered as such, expands on a stasis – the “letdown” of a rock rumoured to grow an inch per year – and Ladouceur’s shaky tolerance for it. I can see why the author describes this as one long poem; although every page ultimately tackles a new day or activity, there’s a plodding lack of concern throughout. “We don’t grow a great deal”, he relates early on, and it’s a confession he returns to, unfazed, near the chapbook’s close:
If growth occurs in the countryside
I am not convinced it occurs
for any good reason.
There’s a malaise being conveyed rather successfully, a flat horizon line visible whenever Ladouceur steals an object away from near focus. Behind the upturned wheelbarrow in the garden; without the snails on the door; or after a flock of birds has occasioned the property, these poems linger, trying to measure a lacking.
A cast of birds took flight from the shrubs
when I shut my giant book.
Birds aren’t fighters
all they do
is put miles between themselves and you
leaving the garden vacant
nothing but insects
nothing to eat them.
Direct language and sparse punctuation lend these poems an immediate impact but their day-to-day trivialities invite a more curious tension: that of the bucolic setting and its two restless live-ins. The ennui between all three parties feels self-imposed but primed to expire; the “we” of Ladouceur and his housemate but also the wild inhabitants of Blaxhall, whose harsh realities increasingly come knocking. From “16.”, in which the couple strikes a rabbit with their car:
For all I know
the grassy hard shoulders of Suffolk
hide hundreds of nuggets of feces and fur
for all I know their ghosts
have clamped their teeth
into the bumper of your car
and one of us feels the additional
weight and one doesn’t.
In tandem with its domesticated arrangement, Lime Kiln Quay Road stubbornly refuses to break silences. Any travelogue opportunities that might’ve distinguished the cities for which these poems were dedicated – all English boroughs – are likewise dashed. These omissions are brave, reinforcing Ladouceur’s careful tone and paving the way for a last page confessional, an epilogue where shades of Gluck’s longing and joy meet in aftermath. As averse to excitement as this chapbook seems to be, there’s a ramshackle appeal to the way Ladouceur whittles away a season or so of this formative period. Plus, when you consider that Ladouceur first published Lime Kiln Quay Road in 2011, it’s exciting to wonder how a few intermittent formative years might shape his upcoming projects. Good on above/ground press for giving this a deserved – and probably necessary – second printing.