Another Country

for Geraldine

by boat, for how else would they come?
Sigurd and Thorfinn and Salif and Ali
fishers and fighters and farmers
spirits of the sea
investing true life in hope

of happier returns
to (or with) Sigrid or Sarah or Alyson

or a reunion on the Island of the Young
off the shore of Eynhallow, Scilly or Ceylon

land always out of sight (but only just)
to misted eyes where spirits roam
where you are ever approaching
and never arrive – or if you do

never leave (investments may go up or down)

and what is the name of the island?
no one knows, or accounts differ

words are not to be trusted
for who is to know if the name
you have signed on this form
is the one you will be known by
in the land of the gods? (isle of dogs)

then standing at the cliff edge
watch weather approach across the water
wavetops whipped off by the wind

tell of those adventurers fallen
into the earth’s mound
Svejn awaiting rescue scratching
in clumsy runes Olaf the oaf
thinks his wife is faithful ha ha

but this occurred
in another time

so consider
what the uniform and the grey suit won’t
countenance: that the evidence
may have been tampered with
files redacted, photos retouched or clipped
(in matters of importance there’s always
trial by scissors and paste)

it’s all there in black and white (before
panchromatic film
red or pink became black, blue
or green rendered white – but who
remembers now the world
was not so simple then?)

and by air on curlew wings
clambering up the sky then
parachuting down, that curlee cry
bubbling across tidal mud and moor

the martin and the martlet
merle in the marginalia
shapes of a faith
inked, painted, sculpted
not compassed in the liturgy

and yes, who was the model
for the Kilpeck sheela –
generic or sui generis? (and who
wielded the tool, or decided –
she or he, they’re
written out, uncarved, unlettered)

bread and circuses, bread and circuses
(but who bakes the bread, who
walks the wire?) – so we’re trussed/concussed
unworthy of trust

unworthy words
but this dream occurred
on another shore
another landing

another border scribed
across the map, razorwire crazing
a once gentle landscape
blank walls awaiting
only the (unborn?) graffitist
the intoxicant paint
slow leakage on the littoral


[Aidan Semmens's sixth collection, The Jazz Age, was published in October to relaunch the Salt Modern Poets series. He lives in Orkney.]

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