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from THEY WHO SAW THE DEEP

 

Portland. Plymouth.

Cyclonic becoming northwesterly 5 to 6.
Very rough or high. Rain or thundery
showers. Occasionally poor.

When Swiftsure became Speedwell
destined for America it was sabotaged
by a well-worried crew. The Mayflower
stepped up to the plate and did its
legendary bit of ocean ploughing for
sixty five days the Pilgrim fathers prayed.

A whole month it took to dock unchartered
shores rife with shoal rifts and rock death.
Two lives lost. Oceanus born at sea.
Most died ashore coming to terms with
new vocabularies. Outlandish graves rites.
Beans of many colours. Beyond-fierce weather.

                        After five leagues the darkness was
                        thick and there was no
                        light. You could see nothing
                        ahead and nothing
                        behind.

I crumble warm leaves of Greek
sage on turkey. Slices of after-pink
sky appear. Peek-a. Seep-a. Bird calls.
Need a dash of oil.

Robin returned alien-voiced
crackling all night long
destructive notes.
Clear air turbulence.
A New England
ice storm on the rampage.

 

 

Biscay. Trafalgar. FitzRoy.

Cyclonic. Occasionally severe gale 9.
Rough or very rough. 

Who sails here? Fisher folk. Finisterre a word
haunting itself with end of the earth yesterdays
ancient wireless ears tuned to the
Wild Bay of the Departed.

What goes down on the event horizon?
A motley crew this way comes with
clinker constructs & papal banners.
Gilded figurehead crafts a bawling infant
blowing poisonous bubbles out its ivory
trumpet spout.

Struth. Marauding Normans. Coming for
uz butter-stinkers crouched in ditches 
umbles pounding louder than a force
eleven gale awaiting our genocide
praying for a storm surge to save our
dark-night soul-sob bacon.

A storm surge did arrived but in
1099 not 1066 the last two digits
belly-up and bedevilled.
We were all long gone by then.
Dead or interbred. Women
tuk brunt ut latter.

                        After six leagues the darkness was
                        thick and there was no
                        light. You could see nothing
                        ahead and nothing
                        behind.

Fine words butter no fish. Parsnips.

Heron cuts a slash across the dusk.
Rheumy-eyed. Bedraggled. A right sorry sight.
Set upon and proper upset. Come home pet.

 

 

Hebrides. Bailey. Fair Isles.

Northwest gale 8 to storm 10.
High or very high. Poor. Occasionally
very poor.

Decluttering the radar of echoes.
Dissonance. After peace came boat
upon boatload of Vietnamese
bobbing cross black & white
teatime screens. For weeks a
drifting watched without permission
fees or film rights or running water.
Pirates mustered. Move in. Murdered.
Stole life. Sex. Keepsakes.
Bundled hopes.

                        After nine leagues the darkness was
                        thick and there was no
                        light. You could see nothing
                        ahead and nothing
                        behind.

Cloud seeders. Feeder clouds. 
Lenticulars. Curly kale is all the rage.
Fat’s back. Posh offal. Umbilicals.

An indiscriminate weather bomb bellows.
Wounded bull of heaven. Wheelie bins
never stood a chance. Venetian blinds
skiffle a metal riff. Walls give. Whatever
is happening is happening. Throughout the
land mothers pretend unfear in front of children.

Shepster-starling misread the situation
totally jam-jarred its reflection streaming
glass beads into a ghastly omnishambles
winging a prayer and a hiding to nothing.

 

 

Sole. Lundy. Fastnet. Irish Sea.

South or Southeast becoming cyclonic.
Wintry showers. Rain or sleet at times.

Sailing again to the Isle of Man for
fresh brown crab on fresh brown bread.
Tender-hearted queenies. Family folk.

In December 1909 the Ellan Vannin vanished in
the unforeseen. All aboard lost. At first light
bags of turnips and an upright piano
boogied up the Mersey. The first bodies
appeared five days later. 

                        After seven leagues the darkness was
                        thick and there was no
                        light. You could see nothing
                        ahead and nothing
                        behind.

Cat cradles. Baby bones. Tinsel seas.
Milk teeth. Sea seethe. A giant wave of
overwhelm ambushes me in the deep
winter kitchen. It came from nowhere.
I hold a sob at bay. Drain of vitamins.

Hasselback potatoes sprawl well-oiled.
Profane against celestial chou-fleur
peppered with tusks of nutmeg.
Meet My Choir on the radio.

Ear-split rattles herald the
return of the jays on the crest of a
squall bulging after dark into
hyperphysical conundrums. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bay Area

This may be the place Ptolemy dubbed
‘Morikambe’ between the rivers
Ribble and Solway. Or it may not. 
Morecambe Bay in the county of Lancashire
is not strictly a bay but a multiple estuary. A
thing of lucid beauty. A thing of light-spawned
shimmers. Hefted waters. Gravid daubs.
Bits of seethe and brood. A bent sea.
A crooked bay. A serial killer.

           The really bored lad dragged his face from the screen
           just long enough to pass our room key. The only
           inhabitant we’d seen since check-in. A high season
           seafront hotel abandoned to vacancy. Unverified shades.

Uplift of heart cockles brim with abstraction.
Salt flats. Mud flats. Sand banks. Quick sands.
The largest intertidal flats in Britain. 
Shallow sub-tidal sands. Tide-washed channels.
Shingle spits. Skears. Skerries. Insinuations. 
Sibylline loops of calligraphy. Five tidal bores leave
calling cards across the bay. They will deviate.
Tease. Render evidence untraceable. 

           An obscure foreboding feathered our shoulders.
           In the deserted dining room a flotilla of napkins
           sailed in the half-dark stiff with untouched
           attitudes. Unblemished.

The sea was out. Way beyond God’s back 
out. Doing its end-of-pier vanishing act.
Somewhere out there five tidal bores loosening
up. Oiling roars. Flexing oxygenated muscles.
Mobilising hydrogen. Combined forces gathering
obscene amounts of protein. Let’s name names: 
Leven. Kear. Kent Wyre. Lune.

Dangerous texts spike the coastline

                                    BEWARE
           SHIFTY CHARACTERS, TERRA SLIPS
            HOODED CHANNELS. FIVE GO MAD
                          MEDUSA COMPLEX
                  POTTED-SHRIMP-THINGS
           LOOSE LEAF SEA FOG. FEET GRABBERS
                   NABBERS. SOUL SNATCHERS

Submarine swards of smart red fescue, thrift and
plantain. The muffled thrum of trembling sea mats.
Short-snouted sea horses. Phosphorescent Sea Pens.
Free-wheeling crustaceans. Phantoms from the glacial
relic of the Lune Deep. All life begat and spat teeming.

           We mount incrementally unlit stairs.
           Scrabble for landing lights. Wade through
           troughs. Corridors. Reek of stewed sea-cabbage
           leached from air vents. Sulphuric. Sixth sense on
           full alert. Lugworms. Zooplankton. Real-time dread.

Incoming tides can outrun a man. A spooked horse.
Shortcut chancers. Long-legged children. Economic
migrants. From nothing to neck-deep in minutes. From
quick blood to clarty corpse the salt & vinegar air fills up.
Melancholy lodges between teeth, darkens the living daylights.

           Our room was cellular. Deeply dingy. Forlorn
           pillows. Lumpy bed. No soap. Dialled O for reception
           got a monotonic sea drone. Freak wave. Mobile also
           dead. Outside the door a squall of shocking laughter.
           After midnight runners. We make makeshift barricades.
           Curl-up childish and close. In fitful sleep I proffer a
           disheartened cheek to a no-kiss.
           The sea grew.

The Lune Deep is a marine canyon running from
Fleetwood to The Bay. Ice age scar tissue. Miles of
deep throat vertiginous reef cliffs. Tumbledown flora.
Configurations with eyes. Spiracles.
A wonderworld beneath our wonderworld.

           We begin the descent to the breakfast room.
           Hope sinks without trace. Shrouds of white linen
           draped everywhere. We find a small clearing of
           orange Formica set for two. We sit and wait. And wait.
           Nobody comes. Radio babble drifts through frosted
           glass. We enter the kitchen. Our hunger is greeted by old
           bacon smells. Rolling news. Piles of raw chicken. Uncooked eggs.
           We shout for service. Shout at the top of our lungs. No one came.

 


 

 

 

 

[Geraldine Monk’s major collections include Interregnum, Creation Books and Escafeld Hangings, West House Books. In 2012 she edited Cusp: Recollections of Poetry in Transition, Shearman Books. Her forthcoming book They Who Saw the Deep will be published in 2016 in the USA by Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press. The book has been described by the poet Catherine Wagner as ‘A water-torn triumph, a mercurial inventory of birds, wars, seas, weathers, vegetables and wrecks. With kinetic brilliance and valorous abandon, Monk forages the deeps’. Geraldine lives in Sheffield and is a founding member of the Sheffield based antichoir Juxtavoices. In 2014 she became an affiliated poet at the Sheffield University Centre for Poetry and Poetics.]

 

Copyright © 2015 by Geraldine Monk, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.