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The salt marsh by the abandoned fish weir’s
sunk boards at Quivet, wood silvered by a century’s
muds and tides: the sky is iron, rusting
round the edges; ravens settle like scorched
pages in the oak. Cordgrass, couch grass,
foxtail, poverty, teasel, needle-and-thread—
wind hissing frigid through forsaken acres—
each night Orion nocks an arrow to the bowstring,
Bear’s gutshot blood burns bright in hips and haws.
White-hot talons of a dark-phase hawk
dive where tomorrow’s blue moon has to rise.
Salt hay between the treeline and the ebbline—
a lap robe fallen from the starry hay wain
deepening wheelruts past the hunters’ bowers—
elkskin pulled tight to the throats of rushes,
burnt umber in the wet, flat flanks; dulled gold
spine-tufts that stand up rising, falling
to ocean’s onslaught twice a day from solstice
to solstice; amethyst dimming in the smoky lamps—
sea lavender’s branching candelabra—
the temperature drops ten degrees in twenty minutes,
glasswort frosted, brittle underfoot,
all fall its scarlet kept throbbing through the fog.
Windgusts strumming dunegrass are the rippling
muscles of a lion running under
the wind; nothing for it but
over the top into the brunt, cast sand
rasping skin off my lids: hoodwinked, blindfold,
blooded on your stuff of silk and lace:
I could nose my way past Gloucester back to Dover
and find you in the dark with my bare hands.
I bend my neck and lean against the beach
blowing down the beach to Brewster, whitecaps
cracking me up—sideways waves
no longer water, not yet ice—
there, thrown on the sand, a torpedo fish,
ray-round, brick thick, snot brown, barbless, devil
tail with caudal fin (from this
to your Thane of Cawdor, a short hop
as the crow flies over Crowes)—a marvel
the gulls have already started in on, eyes
as always first to go. All’s fair, Dan Cupid
or his blind old sea dog
come frisking to his whistle like a pup—
I don’t know what I have in my hands.
Of course I have to lift the damn thing up—
bottom blanched white, a sucked cut, rose
feathering edges of the underdisc.
Step on one alive, 200 volts—
(hoodman blind played naked among the sea stones)—
each volt a tiny tooth from the dolphin’s livewire
smile I saw last summer, close up and strung,
each one a fallen star, echo
of an explosion, faceted sapphire
anklet of electricity—
as when my hand closed round your ankle, taking charge,
the thrill of that first time still going through me—
now there’s no going back or letting go—
the waves have worked their way around behind me—
that knot tied, shocking beauty.
From Flame in a Stable by Martin Edmunds (Arrowsmith, 2021). Included in Vox Populi with permission.
Martin Edmunds’ poems have appeared in Agni, The New Yorker, The Paris Review and The Nation. Flame in a Stable is his second full-length poetry collection.
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