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Thetis

Thetis

I live with my sister in the summer-caves.
Reflected light of ocean whispers on the rocks.
We lie in each other’s arms and look up at the light.
All my life it has been like this –
I honour what is changeful,
hold my balance while the world eddies round me.
I am the still point, the calm to which the sea returns
from wave and storm.
My eyes are its blue, and cold and clear as ocean.
My thoughts break the surface like porpoise.

A boy came to us, an immortal.
We think that one day he will be a king.
He tells us that he fell from heaven
and we smile and soothe his babbling.
I put him to my breast and he sucks like a seal-pup.
He drains me and it is exquisite.
Milk spills and runs between my breasts,
it crusts on my belly, cracks as I stretch.
He coils his fingers in my hair and tugs.
The veins beat at his temples,
blue beneath his cap of hair.
His rage is monstrous, undeniable.
He beats into our stillness and slowly
his anger ceases. He is calm.

Dead Men

Dead Men

I am warded by dead men,
guided by ghosts;
their touch on my arm is deft,
I fear for the skill in my hands.

I take his tools down from the rack
and watch
as the scroll coils,
the steel draws down.
The drift sinks plumb-centre
through the body of the bar.

These things are gifted:
I step into their spell.

In the upswing of the hammer
the blow’s intuition.
In the pressure of my knuckles on the tongs
a nicety of angles judged.
As though their palms had printed on the place
a knowledge-hoard
that’s mine to touch.

And at its heart the fire,
the cave of coals
through which the bellows’ pulsing soughs.
Behind the suck-and-push of leather
I hear the sibilance of heat
that spreads along the bar.
The looseness that precedes the burning,
the lucent dangerousness of steel,
the hiss of their companionship.

Ammonite

Ammonite

As a child I watched
the peel and splinter of slate
as you picked in the cliff face
for fossils.

Something beautiful about the coils
that you dislodged, their corrugations
clenched across millennia,
stranded in a sea-bed turned to rock
that reared above the crust we stood on.

Something fantastical, even then,
about the sense you made of time,
the gaps it spanned
and their inversion
of the solid and the liquid things.

And something precious in that shore
whose gold grain ran a thread
between the old sea and the new,
the stone sea and the wind-ruffed
restless charge of water-onto-land.

You lent me your hammer to play with:
its weight in my hand, the swing of it
too large; its bounce and skew discarded,
abandoned on a rock.

Back at the car your anger rushed like water,
gathered the horizon to itself and took me,
rolled me over, spun the world –
left me battered, breathless, still as stone.

And I remember how you ran,
with no thought but the hammer,
back across the beach to beat the tide,
your footsteps flailing in the sand.