Poem: #07 25.07.2016 Somewhere Along the Severn by Meredith Debonnaire

This is from a series I wrote in 2016 called Letters From A Chained Place. I mostly don’t want to share it, because it is extremely personal, but I’ve performed this one out before and I feel okay sharing it. I realise that a lot of my poems (or at least, a lot of the ones I like) deal in imagery of decay, which is interesting I guess…

Somewhere along the Severn
there’s a place where wrecked boats rest:
timber and steel sinking into a nest of grass.
I’m glad you found me.
I’m glad you found me,
wracked among the ruins of ancient envy.
I only went there once,
and I lost the photographs.
There are no masts,
just rotting beams and sleeping dreams of steel,
strange submarines marooned on the edge of their element.
The water will not take them back.

I’m glad you found me, here, howling among the wrack.
I’m always howling somewhere,
and in the aftermath of havoc wreaked
I was glad to find you there.

This strange season washes tidewrack up on my shores;
breathing bones of beasts that came before.
I’d like to roar.
I’d like to feel that anger
shudder through the hollow of my chest.
I’d like to stand, a warrior,
defiant at the daybreak with a gleaming chainmail vest.
But I know what I like best,
and that is ruins.
The sublunary broken tombs of structures doomed to rot.
The hot forge of unmaking,
the shaking screech of separation and then…
the rest.

I have no direction.
Even on reflection the paths are deep and murky
as an unfamiliar whale-road.
Voices goad me on, to rashness or inaction
and there are no easy choices supplied.
There is no balm for the soul that died lost.
There is only the comfort
of moss growing thicker each year upon the stones,
there is only the comfort
of becoming part of a sea of unknowns, drifting.
A tide is shifting somewhere in the deeps,
down in the keep of the sea-beast,
Where the darkness forms solid against sight.
Where the darkness is thicker than night.

And the might of the ocean ripples
through all that it has touched –
a hushed whisper,
a glistening promise to those who call the water home.
It shivers through my bones and I am alone.
I am always alone with ghosts.
With a host of empty ships,
with iron teeth scraping my lips
and a body that shifts like rolling hills.
A mermay without gills,
drowning on the land and in the sea,
trying to find home in the places where they meet;
in the wrecked ships,
a haunted fleet stationed on land,
stuck where they stand, beached.

And I am glad you found me,
truly glad.
I still love the time we had but I am changed.
I cannot stay the same.
I’m here upon uncertain ground,
among my temple of lost and unfound
and I am biting my nails to the quick to build a ship
that will carry me over the lip of the world
and up from the realm of the dead.
I cannot recall what the wrecks said
but they spoke when I was there.
They spoke like water upon air
and their voices billowed into mist.

Everything we’ve built is dust.
Everything we’ve made will rust,
this beating heart of mine can only take so much
before it bursts and brine pours out to soak my veins,
saturated with the names of all the things that I forgot.
I am so very skilled at forgetting.
I make an art out of letting memory decay.
I forget the words I say
before they’ve fully left my mouth –
they taste of salt and the desire for south
and they burn my tongue.
They burn my still-young flesh.
They burn the fresh soil of my skin.
They burn the thoughts I keep within.
And if I speak too soon my words will burn
the ship-graveyard in which I turn
and turn
as I try to decide
if it’s the sea or the deep blue skies that I desire –
if this wreckage will be my funeral pyre.

And the grass on my feet
is cool and sweet and draped in dew.
I admit that I came here searching for you…
But the tide only brought memories that I thought lost,
and as ever I’m left paying the cost
of life inbetween;
of having one foot on the land
and one in the sea.
Knowing that oceans are deadly
and land stultifying.
And the horrifying fear of never belonging to either
is slowly becoming a comfort again:
like that moss over stone,
like the wave polishing bone.

The water won’t have me,
the earth will not either.
If I cannot have both then I will have neither and
somewhere along the Severn
there’s a place where wrecked boats rest
with salt in their bones and mud on their beams.
And there,
there I’ll make my nest.

Back next week, probably with book reviews.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kevan Manwaring
    May 12, 2018 @ 14:15:53

    This is awesome – loads of great lines. Reminds me of the haunting melancholy of Anglo-Saxon poetry, eg The Ruin – but with a modern, personal, eco-spin. Look on my works, ye mighty!


  2. Nimue Brown
    May 14, 2018 @ 10:28:56

    It’s at Purton. I used to go there as a child, and in my lifetime many of the boats have become much less visible.


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