For David Rees.
Illustrations: David Rees.
By KELVIN CORCORAN.
OON THE DARK sea off to the left a white tower,
further still, almost hidden, a darker spire.
The sky has taken the colour of the great green
and your channel conceals a series of rocks.
What ships sailed here have gone into pockets of air,
this place only remains in the minds of those who survived;
others trusted seamarks, they had no charts,
vision was poor, opened the door to disaster.
That inlet might mean positive erosion
and the white tower direct a battle home,
and I’m seeing what’s not there, clear and bright,
another history like a rising tide of denial.
I was waiting on the pier, we all waited,
the sun on the hills made it hard to see;
everyone reduced to the point of disappearance,
not even reflected on the water, over and out.
First explorers, then charts,
then traders and ordnance
on the good ship Imperial,
raise these seamarks boys.
Sea full of money, sea full of bodies;
headcount the black and shiny coins below.
How many survived this time?
Plenty for you and me Captain.
Lee, I know this is not the Brighton Sea
and you’re not here and neither can we talk like this.
The sky wheels above the sparkling blue as always,
and the gulls post-modern make space in their song.
I remember from your hospital bed the sky
and the high window opened a little,
far below the tide rolls back and forth
but this is just one-way, though not a word lost.
Force 10 winds left our sails in tatters,
water poured in the smashed window,
the water rising and the wind roaring
adrift two miles offshore.
The girl said, -My uncle’s in the RNLI
he’s saved people at sea.
I know all the types of boats,
the Shannon’s my favourite.
That other shore, I’ve been there;
the light fails, and the return, if it happens,
a matter of medical competence and chemistry,
arrives in a white coat, free of metaphor.
From the other shore the view shifts,
you look and wonder – am I in that film?
Is that the seamark? Leading where?
Lighthouse, lighthouse, swing your beam.
Lighthouse, swing your beam
show me Alan out there still,
Alan of the precise word
singing for William Blake.
New arrival on the other shore
I’m calling you, over,
radio waves rise and fall;
silence silence, the sea replied.
Are those the houses of the living
low on the shore falling over the edge?
I remember fields down to a river
and boats drifting slowly out to sea.
There the days spiral in the green
and pillars of light twist and turn all sense;
I never knew then what would happen next,
moment by moment waves breaking on the day.
KELVIN CORCORAN’s first book was published in 1985. His Collected Poems is will soon be published by Shearsman. His work has been commended by the Poetry Society and the Forward Prize committee and commissioned by the Arts Council and Medicine Unboxed. With Robert Sheppard he is co-editor of The New Collected Poems of Lee Harwood.