Harsh in winter flight the bone-white wings
Went screeling across the sky. Set I
To fishing, then, and the light was fading as
I hauled on my oilskins. Ah, fish,
Scaling the waves, how sly,
How slippery unloved existence! No hook
to name things by.
Thoughts of her roam in shoals with
The currents, how she trawled
With her hair for the sunlight,
Wrist deep in dough by the window.
I’d catch her haloed there.
Now heart among the waves
I was, the grave deeps of
Sorrow, flesh cold, and the restless
Sea-souls breaking the surface like
Remembered wrongs in need of forgiveness
Then on the bow a bird came
Lighting out of the cloud bank,
Dark in the eye of the West.
Cocked its head at me
Bold and mortal, as the day dipped
The gold of its beak in the ocean.
I swung it a fish gut, winding
Its slime in an arc through the air
That it caught, fought with, gannetted,
Gulping the glaucousness. Till,
Sheering away, it wheeled
Grey about me, flung like her
Ash to the tear of the wind.
On land again doors hide
The silence of furniture; legs,
Backs crowded together,
Mourners grieving the spaces. I
Lost me without her. Frying the fish
In the dark on a one-ring stove.
I looked up and there…! At the window
Its eye again! Surely the same
Gull, followed me in from the sea?
Tipping its head to appraise me for all
The world just the way she did.
Her voice – shaping words
Like a bird, with no meaning
But salt and sweet and relief
And yearning – the sound of an end
To my troubles that welcomed me home.
It’s as if we had never needed
Language. Was there syntax when Adam
Found Eve in a long day’s hunting?
Did they fish for the luminous phrase in
Eden’s dark waters, ‘til the day-star’s
Falling ruined the world’s clean dawn?
And the hope that was
born and took flight in me then on
its wings to reclaim her – a soul
drowned in feathers –
Is that a star in its eye or only
the lights of the harbour rekindled?
“I’ll be right with you, love.” Softly I called her,
Reeling in brightness, my own wings unfurling.
“Now – tell me how to begin?”