Herakles Of Antikythera

In all probability
Such acts of importunity
Would go unnoticed;
Artists’ strokes still pondered
Under rising sands,
Poets who wrote with much-devoted wonder;
Murmurations from ancient loves
A league beneath a perma-land.

Forebearers’ genres costed now,
Ashes pack a summerhouse,
Berries bluesy caterwaul,
What did we know of here at all?
They dredged his head, encrusted prow,
Entrusted to blind seabed sows,
A bludgeoned god dislodged himself,
To find his home on a pastor’s shelf.

The Hermit Of St Kilda

A sturgeon in a muddy bath
Atop one wayward cleit-bound path,

A bunion-coloured troubled moon,
Swallowed by his bleak lagoon;

Bothy ghosts with bridal sedge,
Perilous steeper western edge.

He floated on a flotsam-skiff
Disembarked, in gloaming mist,

Footsteps in her foaming surf
Winds were purging sands and turf;

He knelt, and kneeling blessed,
Wilder elements would contest,

Existence, akin to snow still falling
Intrinsically, all thoughts appalling.

An aching storm then passing through
Shook the eyes in that lagoon,

Lugubrious eyes, ugly too,
All the things he never knew.

Dead-way eyes, and deadly too,
For all who looked within the gloom;

Rising above, more than self,
Prayed upon a skerry shelf,

While sturgeon, eel and salmon fled
Back to where the city bled.

Peripheries

There’s a sink that needs cleaning,
A festive wreath to pack away;
Death essentially demeaning,
I can’t see beyond what you did today.

Meanwhile,
The pure agony of existence
Is on the peripheries
Of oceanic ferries
Towards bliss, or heaven.

I can remember every moment,
Pernicious and horrible;
Impervious to me, terrible,
Memories in their tsunamis
And their oceans becalmed,
Crammed into the ecstasy
Of my every waking thought.

Awdl I Wraig Pysgotwr

Cultivating seven lemon leaves of love,
She keeps their citrussy pips
For infusing our elevenses
And drizzle cake for afterwards,
Returning from the morning trip
Aboard my pre-dawn sea-breeze skip
Amid ululating waves, gigantic
Monoliths to rage and grief,
To shower away all memories
Of tarpaulin, and bountiful cod
I sell to a fishmongers’ market,
Fresh are the fish they sell
For a clamouring townsfolk
On beds of mushy peas
And curried chips.

From my time at middle-sea
My lips are akin to potato skins
Abandoned in a frozen field
After a squad of soldiers’ stampeded
Over muddy Flanders and Frisia;
I have rugged Stegosaurus toes
And a cranium bursting with
Plains of great grey
Oppressive clouds,
I am sometimes gruff
And sometimes I say nothing for days,
For who would converse
With mizzle-clouds and fish
And fog?

Yet despite these lesser facets
She is my anchor and my harbour –
Two states of material being –
A qubit, a Schrödinger love.
She is the single numeric code
For those thousands of padlocks
Encircling my rusty tortoiseshell heart;
She is both trusted compass and direction,
And when I set course
On a shipful of bones
For snowy Arctic bays and coves,
She returns me slowly, slowly,
Patiently home for cake and tea –
A blend with seven lemon leaves.


N.B The title is Welsh, ‘Ode To A Fisherman’s Wife’. I noticed the closeness to the Cornish word for Fisherman – pyskador – but I was not certain that I could approximate the Cornish title closely enough.

Puerto Pollensa

Anchored, then,
Tonight, the harbour is quiet.

Whenever I tripped over,
I landed on a bed of
Stray abandoned thought-cats.
I survived their falling fire
But this explains why
I have so many scratches
On my forearms and back.

I recently remembered
How we descended into
That far northern resort
Looking like tourists lost
In a monsoon,
Collapsible buggies
With razor-sharp teeth,
Drenched luggage deposited
Wordlessly on a side street
By our bored busman
With the darkest five o’clock shadow
I had ever seen –
No change left for gratuities.
Aromas on a warm squally breeze
Of palm trees, exotic and pliant,
Of ice creams with spirited titles:
Granizada, y Helado Suave o Cremoso,
The absurdity of
Watermelon socks
And mouths shaped like shuttlecocks.
Our sodden map was upside down.

If I want to, I can remember
Every item on the restaurant menu,
Every position of every dining chair,
Every taxi driver’s third child’s name,
All those feelings twenty years ago
Of misguided optimism and hope
Now that memory ploughs and harrows,
Swelling and then low like whitecaps
A stone’s throw from our hotel window.
Time’s arrow is stuck in between my ribs;
The trouble is, I do not want to go back.

Even a fast-food chain looks sophisticated
Anywhere else but home;
Home, this starless island is where
Powerfully corruptive usurpers
Paint turpentine stripes
Across our tarred faces.

Everything good we knew
Vanished without a trace
Into thick, corpulent air.

Scylla

Sea-millipede hair,
Ocean groundhog mare
And coral-hog stare,
Mouldy Gorgonzola-stench
Infused and clenched
Into the newly drenched
Visions of whalers
As they sail too near
To her slowly growing
And highly attuned ears,
Two harpoons in array
Aimed from the back of
Her thoracic majesty
Towards their deepest fears,
Ironic demise, inevitably.

I dreamt of this revenge
Bare chested in my bed,
Possibly to escape from the thought
That I am the cause
Of my own death.

In this way,
This is why I stay anchored
Under my duvet all day.

A Crime Scene

Turn my head to one side,
Existentially shy, and sleep deprived;
Alone in a mostly unhomely bed
And words tip out
From my mouth,
The mouth in my head.
I observed mutely
Their acute, distinct forms,
Their acumen as they tumbled
One
By
One
Onto my musty bedroom floor.
Until all that remains
Is a hollowed-out cranium,
And a verbal stain
Of beetroot-red blood on my case.

A lexicon of detectives
Entered the stale daylight,
Scratched their proverbial heads,
Striving when aligning invisible dots,
Returned home to partners
And a scotch on the rocks.

Night-time, dark seas,
Waves as high as a devil’s eye
And a coldness which strips your
Life-jacket and your skin
And then your seven dignities
As it becomes something horribly
And unethically mythic and
Intravenous.
What senseless, sponsored
Statelessness
Could be worse than this
For you to attempt crossing,
To enter this grey
Bay Of The Disconsolate.
Searchlights and sou’westers,
Faces chipped and glazed like
Limestone obelisks stolen
For someone else’s vanity project,
Now violated, graffitied,
Vandalised to your very souls
As you float in oceans
You have never even seen,
Where an armada danced
Before your demise,
Supinely, and serene,
Nor the land and sovereignty
And simple everyday occasions
Which can gratify and relieve –
A birthday, a Wednesday –
To ease an eternal
Deplorable soreness.

I want to rip out the sea;
I want to tear out the heart
Of every incompetence and
Inadequacy –
You were all born, you were
Umbilical, and biblical,
You were loved and languages
Added into those percolating bones;
You were found and swelled
In life’s great lung-like wells
And still, unchangeably, all for this,
Far too far from any sort of homeland;
Lighthouse power outages,
And so many exits unplanned.

Polyphemus

Bareback-riding blue whale stars,
Stirrups smelted fishing scars,
In his grip, sea-scimitars,
Poseidon’s hooves in necklace jars.

Poseidon’s blood his tattoo-paint
Across his nose and briny face;
Proteus blind, a drowning saint,
These brutish oceans will embrace.

Reins abrasive, totems clutched,
Trident eyes tell of such a place
Where skin’s by sun so rarely touched,
Where islands sank without a trace.

Flavit Et Dissipati Sunt

Is this the device
To restore me to life?
Aside from Time.

Aboard a forecastle,
Transshipping north,
I had for a while complained

On a dead-dream’s galeón
About that empty butter-dish
As a reflection of maritime

Indiscretion and, yes, indiscipline,
When, mizzenmast by mist absorbed,
I observed the strangest

And yet also greatest tactic
For navigating by enemy ships
My mind might ever deploy –

Such naval mastery,
Having praised the artistry
And admired the torsional

Balance of Riggers
With hands as thick
As a goatskin canteen

I recalled as a boy,
Crafted by one zahatogile
Who lived in the hills

Between beautiful old Bilbao
And her sister-ville, Vitoria-Gasteiz,
With the vigour

Of rumours
In human form,
I watched those sailors

See their majestic
Eponymous flaxen cloths
Unfurl like those enormous flags

High above God’s citadel –
I could only marvel, open-mouthed;
My porcelain soup-ladle fell

To the floor with a clunk
Of patterned petuntse on oak,
Oak above ocean

And bitumen stores, and bunks.
I witnessed that pernicious
Enemy approaching,

Those hawkish sea-dogs set
To embed their yellow jaws
Into Iberian hulls,

When with miraculous invention
And a surreptitious detection
The whole, entire ship,

From fore and aft
Ballast and derrick and all
Submerged slowly, deliberately,

Its seaborne form
Into much murkier waters
Until even our crow’s nest

(Which I once sat within
With telescopic lens to check
And did detest that

Vertiginous platform)
Disappeared from sight,
And the royal mast’s tip

With every man and boy
From Powder Monkeys
To a Quartermaster himself,

Sunk and sunk and sunk
Somehow, yes, sunk,
Under the surface

Our seven hundred men
Descended, by what artifice,
By what new science

I had simply no idea.
Time slowed down,
Saturated pumps immersed,

Until the advancing party passed –
Kittiwake-facing adversary –
And our loneliness checked,

Our gallant vessel
Rose triumphantly,
Independently from nature,

No fish in a tricorne,
No whelks in our breath,
All the saltwater pouring

Away from our death,
We sailed on, yes,
Impervious

To our future defeat
And descent, until
The English said

Flavit et Dissipati Sunt,
Our angels translate as
Repent, Repent, Repent.

O Barqueiro, A Coruña

To finally sleep
Is all my thinking needs.

A stone in the slowly
Unfurling
Ocean,
Insistent waves,
Incessant waves
Murmuring
Unseen.

But I am afraid
Of the
Deep,
Deep,
Deep.

Dark fish are there,
Gloomy, alone; they forget;
Through dank seaweed stare,
And by trawler nets
They are longing for home.

Yet how can I ever go home.
There are no stones left
To throw and there are
No oceans here,
Just the sounds
Of lawnmower motors
And dogs beserkly barking
At nothing at all.