Around any corner an amazing encounter may await. That’s what happened for me with Jennifer Copley’s poem ‘The Two Friends’. It just stunned – stuns – me. At every reading. A short piece – 13 lines. Set in three uneven stanzas. It’s irreverent, and concerned only with acceptance.
It’s a much happier poem than many I love. The title’s perfect – has a timeless, childlike quality. But the exclusivity of that ‘Two’, for me, coupled to its definite article and noun… This pact is real. And sound.
The poem tells the story of the friendship between a small mouse and the corner of a field. ‘It’s his favourite corner / where he feels safe. / The corner is happy to have him.’ A good arrangement, then – excellent.
Although, of course, nothing is static, or perfect or permanent. The corner’s stuck there, the mouse comes and goes. (The mouse has legs and feet, the corner is a corner and has no choice but stay put: it’s in its nature.)
When the mouse is away, the corner frets – how can it not? And he doesn’t so much worry that something bad may have happened to the mouse; his worry is riddled with self doubt. ‘The corner worries he won’t come back, / that he’ll find a better corner elsewhere.’ And – indeed, because –
‘A long time ago the corner’s mother did just that.’
But then this poor corner is reassured immediately, gloriously, compassionately. In bursts the poet, no less, and wielding an exclamation mark like a small sword. Breaking through convention, tearing down those paper walls.
‘Don’t worry, little corner! I am the writer of this poem
and I can reveal the mouse will always return’
In one last, exquisite twist, she also concedes that the mouse will age, and tire (though not of the corner) – life is tough, and gruelling; all the more need for that safe pact.
I love the fact The Two Friends are so different – in nature, size, strength – yet symbiotic. Of course they’re vulnerable – in completely different ways. The more physically robust corner is the more worried. Though that mouse’s fur is, increasingly, ‘bedraggled’, (and there’s that sting in the tail of the final word, ‘nettles’).
Most of all I love the authorial authority – like a children’s book narrator – of this poet in this poem, including her necessary, wonderful, surprise appearance. I like the humour. I love the corner.
As a portrait of friendship – resonance – why it’s necessary – I’m not sure it leaves a thing unsaid.