I put on my body armour of black rubber
the absurd flippers, the grave and awkward mask.
The salt is on the briar rose. The sea howl and
the sea yelp are different voices. I go down
an innocent ladder. Where is there an end
to the drifting wreckage the silent withering
of autumn flowers dropping
their petals and remaining motionless?
First having read the book of myths
I come to see the damage we’ve done
trying to unweave, unwind, unravel.
Yes, we believed that the oceans were endless
surging with whales, serpents and mermaids
there is no end but addition the trailing
prayer of the bone on the beach where we heard
consequences of further days and hours
demon-haunted and full of sweet voices
while emotion took to itself the emotionless
years of living among the breakage
to lure us over the edge of the world. We were
conquerors, pirates, explorers, vagabonds;
years of living among the breakage, war-makers,
sea-rovers, we ploughed what was believed in
as the most reliable, made maps that led others
to the sea’s harvest and therefore were the fittest
for renunciation and sometimes we heard dolphins
whistling, older than the time of chronometers.
Where is the end of them, the fishermen sailing
into the wind’s tail, where the fog cowers?
We cannot think of a time that is ocean-less.
The catch was good and the oceans endless
for a haul that will not bear examination.
Where is there an end of it, the voiceless wailing
the backward look behind the assurance
towards the primitive terror?
1 Helen Dunmore, Dolphins Whistling: T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets: Adrienne Rich, Diving into the Wreck.
© 2020, Eric Nicholson
Eric Nicholson is a retired art teacher who lives in the NE of England.