paul summers

fish quay fugues

i. doggerland

the old world is dying, and the new world struggles
to be born: now is the time of monsters.
antonio gramsci

& the way will be perilous;
black ice & shark-eyed smiles,
several heaps of hogmanay vomit,
a vacant pizza-box draped with hoar,
its palimpsest of feast & greed,
bleak litany of the new & old,
dog-shit & fag-ends & crumbling roads,
the hours’ lash, the pains of labour,
the endless cycle of peddled fact.
& then the sanctuary of frozen sand;
its confluence of salt & wind-whipped crows,
the hymn of a sea cathedral hollow.
kick off your shoes my love & walk;
due east, towards the burgeoning sun.
plough on through the grave mounds
of haddock-frames & listless kelp,
tread slowly on the pebble field,
avoid the triggers of its toad-back traps;
then walk & wade & catch your breath,
beyond the bar where codling lurk,
let swell becalm your troubled blood,
squeeze shut your jaded eyes & dream;
the rapture of tectonic plates entwined
in acts of violence & of love, the red raw
ooze of magma’s birthing, each push,
each jolt, each breathless force exerted
sees citadels emergent from these waves,
a glimpse of doggerland’s trembling plains,
its strongholds of hope re-rendered
now un-drowned, their beacons still charged,
their gates agape, their monsters slain;
each edifice an altar awaiting our faith.

ii. the dreamers’ ark
(for tony king)

the oak is seasoned
the sawyers done

each board & beam
is shaved & steamed

rendered immaculate
in barrel curves

planed & polished
to perfect laps

the wrights slip-
glazed by noble toil

each limb in balance
each peg set tight

like lovers’ vows
immoveable in situ

caulked with hope
& dogma pitched

our lines are tied
the mast is set

beyond the lash
of briny rain

the sirens call
a kelpie chorus

in refrain beseeches
us to join them

on their barricade
of angry waves

then truths & lies
file two by two

the ghosts of all
our champions too

then faith & doubt
complete the crew

the flexing muscle
of a lunatic tide

will raise us off
our silt-kissed keel

our petards primed
the mainsail draped

we’ll voyage toward
some promised land

towards a haven
of our communion

this ark of gesture
& good intent

within the warp
& weft of oily sheets

the reek of sheep
the thrill of transit

its canvas chest
heaved out in pride

repels the barrage
of this storm

its swell embellished
with gilded words

nihil nocent
do no harm

paul summers © 2017

iii. the searcher

(for nev clay & walter benjamin)

the stakes are raised on days of hope
beyond a yard or two of fraying rope,

beyond the frames of flesh-stripped fish,
a sliver of a willow-pattern dish,

beyond the jet of wave-hewn coals,
the tumbled glass of mussel shoals.

today, an optimism demands of me
a fist-sized lump of ambergris

infused with an ocean’s sacred musk,
the blackest pearl, a narwhal’s tusk,

a celtic cross, a golden fob,
the trident of a nightmare’s hob.

through flow & slack, advancing with the ebb’s retreat,
i sift & scan the tesserae of sand & weed beneath my feet.

the more stringent my scrutiny, the graver the finds;
these bloodless hands exhume the crypts of clerics’ minds,

& beyond the silt bar’s radiant clarts,
uncover a hoard of wordless grief & splintered hearts:

the angel remiel’s discarded wings,
the aria of lies the siren sings,

the storm cleft tiller of a stricken barque,
the corpse of the ascending lark,

a font of black basalt fine-polished by tides
brimming with the tears of drowned sailors’ brides.

the age of mediocrity

it came by stealth
though some invited
it came disguised
as friend & kin
it walked right in
& crept like plague
through all the rooms
we’d kept as sacred
each town consumed
each citadel complicit
no cell immune
the cure redacted
all grace usurped
all hope infected
the mediocre’s
bleak contagion
each fertile thought
remapped as fallow
each mind re-drawn
in bland enclosures
their promise stacked
in putrid piles
bequeath the meek
this palsied earth

paul summers © 2017