FROM THE ESTRANGING SEA - Sabine Baring-Gould Poems


Poems » sabine baring gould » from the estranging sea


You want to know why?
Go down to the shacks then,
like shattered staves
bound in old wire
at the hour when
the sun's wrist bleeds in
the basin of the sea,
and you will sense it,

or follow the path
of the caked piglet through
the sea-village's midden,
past the repeated
detonations of spray,
where the death rattle
gargles in the shale,
and the crab,
like a letter, slides
into its crevice,
and you may understand this,

smell the late, ineradicable reek
of stale rags like rivers
at daybreak, or the dark corner
of the salt-caked shop where the cod
barrel smells of old women
and you can start then,

to know how the vise
of horizon tightens
the throat, when the first sulphur star
catches the hum
of insects round the gas lantern
like flies round a sore.
No more? Then hang round the lobby
of the one cinema too early

in the hour between two illusions
where you startle at the chuckle
of water under the shallop
of the old schooner basin,
or else it is still under all
the frighteningly formal
marches of banana groves,
the smell from the armpits of cocoa

from the dead, open mouths
of husked nuts
on the long beach at twilight,
old mouths filled with water,
or else with no more to say.


So you have ceased to ask yourself,
nor do these things ask you,
for the bush too is an answer
without a question,
as the sea is a question, chafing,
impatient for answers,
and we are the same.
They do not ask us, master,
do you accept this?
A nature reduced to the service
of praising or humbling men,
there is a yes without a question,
there is assent founded on ignorance,
in the mangroves plunged to the wrist, repeating
the mangroves plunging to the wrist,
there are spaces
wider than conscience.

Yet, when I continue to see
the young deaths of others,
even of lean old men, perpetually young,
when the alphabet I learnt as a child
will not keep its order,
see the young wife, self-slain
like scentful clove in the earth,
a skin the colour of cinnamon,
there is something which balances,
I see him bent under the weight of the morning,
against its shafts,
devout, angelical,
the easel rifling his shoulder,
the master of Gregorias and myself,
I see him standing over the bleached roofs
of the salt-streaked villages,
each steeple pricked
by its own wooden star.

I who dressed too early for the funeral of this life,
who saw them all, as pilgrims of the night.