On Seeing the Poet’s Drowned Corpse Float — MacGillivray

Downstream - Digital Work - Miroslava Panayatova
Downstream – Digital Work – Miroslava Panayatova

‘a holy whirlpool spins in your river’ —Enheduanna

I enlist this river's mineral bed;   
whose damp air manipulates bone-body shape,        
whose discharged oracle once roughly bled   
a shrieking carpet of dust, rolled swiftly out,      
reconfiguring motes its water-shade laid
in fire-glyphs seared on the river's parched mud. 

When Alexander sucked the poison root, 
pleading to know if his tongue wrinkled stone,
sweating in semi-precious types of light,          
he faced the whirlpool's voice-clot - found it mute;
circling earthy patterns of thoughtful doubt,
looping the river's underwritten knot.

How brightly the dust-wet whirlpool flares, half-immersed
in halo-bone. Many faces drawn, disperse,
whose deeds of kindness, are water-written.                                             
I lift the river to my mouth—find it bitter—
I weep, rivers dry: when I rise, rivers rise,
their fierce burns refreshing my flame-filled eyes.

Astonishments of fire, astonishments of blood.
Where Woolf's softening skull blunders dim rock thud;
turning on her shoeless heel, dead Li Po,
whose eyes roll black to blue, staring in moon-sunk glow:        
self-possessed of sleep in flame, river-thrown
in burning water, where all poets drown.

Commissioned by BBC Radio 3 The Verb in 2019 for programme ‘Along the River’ and subsequently published in Blackwell’s Poetry No. 1, 2020.

©2019 MacGillivray
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One thought on “On Seeing the Poet’s Drowned Corpse Float — MacGillivray

  1. I love the subtle rhymes and imagery you present in this piece. There is a lyrical and smooth meter to it, as well as lush and startlingly vivid pictures. Thanks so much for sharing this with us, MacGillivray. 🙂


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