‘… wide-ranging, beautifully crafted…’ Malcolm Bradley, Acumen
Highly Commended, Bridport prize 2015, included in The Creel anthology, and featured on the Mary Evans Poems and Pictures blog.
Dark river of itself, curled in the bottom of the creel
the small myth was an absence, a light taker,
pulsing with malevolence, its oily body slick
with power and potential, head, tail, middle
a single unremitting story told to the end.
None would put his hand in, tempt the malicious eye
or risk springing the trap of its jaws. Even its name,
the mysterious double e, defied us, bled sound.
Neither fish nor animal, we knew elvers would cross
fields and roads to reach the sea. Could he be a god?
Three days they forgot about him in the bucket.
He baked in the sun, skin drying brown,
contemplating the distant blue of the sky,
until one took pity and brought him down to the sea
uncurled his body and with tender fingers
sluiced the water through his gills.
How it must have felt, the prisoner released
into the light, Houdini cheating the burning rope –
the thin triumphant smile, the vengeful gleam,
before he disappeared into the blackness of himself.
Noah to God
My grief moves like the sea, it carries me with it.
My nose is full of animal smells; I breathe the same hot air
the animals breathe. I feel their heat.
Salt works its way in everywhere. It scours our skin,
it makes our hair brittle, our hands crack.
Lions bed down with cattle, the elephant no longer moves.
I still hear the screams of my neighbours, my friends.
Their fear overwhelms me, and my heart
holds the sounds of their drowning children.
May be salvation is in the sad eyes of the zebra.
The Counterfeit Jew
In answer to the Jewish question I answer ‘no’
though by my brow, my eyes, my nose you’d be forgiven
for thinking so;
for even in a room of Jews on Sabbath Friday, one asked
if I was one, and said of all the men there, I was the one
you wouldn’t ask.
I followed their rituals, took water like proper Jews
do, like my father’s mother’s father must have done, but
I watch the news
and see stone-throwers nightly face the tanks, and lies
and wonder who my lost people are who can only
see one side, eye
for an eye, ten deaths for a death. Who is counterfeit,
those who lose their lands, their histories, or the lessons
Published by the Poetry Society: Learning Magic; Hey Presto; The Gift; The Sore Thumb.
Featured on the Mary Evans Picture Library ‘Poems and Pictures‘ blog: The Gifts of the Magi; The Old Whaler, Jonah; Vision of Heaven; The Bends; and Eel