New Poetry

Causeway

Beneath the rain-shadow and washed farmhouses,
in the service of the old shore,

we waited for the rising of the road,
the south lane laden in sand,

the north in residue and wrack;
the tide drawing off the asphalt

leaving our tyres little to disperse;
still, the water under wheel was forceful —

cleft between the chassis and the sea —
that clean division that the heart rages for.

But half way out the destination ceases to be the prize,
and what matters is the sudden breadth of vision:

to the north, a hovering headland,
to the south, a shoal of light —

the sea off-guarded, but hunting:
our licence brief, unlikely to be renewed.

Between mainland and island, in neither sway,
a nodding of the needle as the compass takes its weigh.

Published in the Guardian, 20 May 2015

Landlock

Rain came rarely to the white wood valley.
In between times, he did what he could,
cut rhubarb and gooseberries, brought flowers
from the hill: camel-thorn in winter, rest-harrow
in summer, rock-rose, barberry, mimosa.
He ground wormwood to settle her fever.
When the trouble was done he would take back the farm,
plant olive and cedar, build her a home.
But she thought mostly of the sea —
the uncommissioned sea —
wild at her, salt strong —
not the starving river, brackish and torn —
a river is never enough.
One of her wishes was to find her own path,
but the lowlands were locked down, the plains undone;
so they climbed, and climbed as one.
And when she could not walk he carried her
and when he could not carry her she walked.
Such as this the days went by, till his strength too was sapped.
He laid his back against the longer rock
and set her head that gently in his lap.
Sleep overtook them on the slope.
He woke to take the sunlight in his eyes
and could not see at first the greater distance,
the strange blue, stain blue light in the distance,
that seemed every bit to move, impossible, surely,
a thin drawn band of sea, somewhere meeting sky.
He raised her head that she might see it done.
But where she was she had already gone.

Published in the Guardian, 25 July 2009

Wulf

from the Anglo Saxon

The men of my tribe will hunt him as game.
They will kill him if he comes with force.

It is different with us.

Wulf is on one shore, I on another,
fast is that island, thickened with fens;
fierce are the men who guard it:
they will kill him if he comes with force.

It is different with us.

It was rainy weather, and I sat down and wept,
and grieved for my Wulf, his far wanderings,
when a battle-quick captain laid me down;
that was peace for a moment, but only a moment.

Wulf, my Wulf, it was wanting you
that made me sick, your never coming,
the unanswered heart, no mere starvation.

Do you hear, Eadwacer? Wulf will carry
our whelp to the woods.

Men easily break what is never bound.
Our song, for one.

Published in Poetry Review, Summer 2008