No 18 - September 2002
Red sea, red hands, sleeves, clothing,
What clamour, what blows, what zest,
What desperate flukes pummelling the sea!
They shiver their last by the hundreds,
Gaped to the bone.
The sky is frantic with seabirds,
Eager beaks plunging, red to the eyes.
Always the Great Ones have come, girl,
And always we have herded them,
Driving as many as we can into the shallows;
These are my grandfather’s hooks;
Winter food, child, and oil for lights,
Bones for fencing, grindings for the soil.
Listen, my lovely,
No one is anxious in the culling month now, it is true,
Our towns are glutted with the Kings meat;
A little blubber we take, our traditional delight,
The carrion we leave for nature’s relentless uses.
Do you see wastage here?
An intemperate greed
that disturbs the sweet, maternal balance?
Softly now, watch as the days pass,
Soon there will be only the bones,
Half-buried by mud and pebbles,
Watch the things that breed in rotting flesh
Watch them multiply, what do they know of proportion?
They would cover the earth if they could.
There is no quarter given here,
Only a bitter impasse,
A furious attrition that knows no respite,
Save for the armistice of the Dodoes.
Turn away now,
What you see is a horror, I agree,
Come, we’ll go back, if you’ll trust
There is nothing to be done here.
Sometimes the image veils the process,
Hills, valleys, sky, sea;
Today the rock was overturned,
And we saw the earth wriggle with life;
We’ll go to my father’s house,
Stay a night with us, we have room to spare.
My forefathers held a wild death in their hearts;
Better the bright axe swinging,
The clenched, oblivious fury,
Better the red surf boiling,
The straight, unbending leap
that must leave the earth behind.
In a blow, the weakest come ashore,
Bronchitic, pounded by the billows,
Naked without the sea;
Do we help them to die, or to live again?
To exhaustion in the storm, catching wrong breaths of water?
Come, we will light a fire on the pebbles tonight,
I will sing you songs of these islands.
The night will hang like a painting,
The furious stars will twinkle
and the cold moon will smile.
Come, tender heart,
You are right to bring your anger,
But come, sit down,
I will sing you a song of the Lost Ones,
Daughters and husbands,
Fathers and wives.
I will sing of the sea-life, both old and new.
Listen, mainlander, and tell me,
If there is nothing like to the singing of whales in my voice.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The