Friday, 20 August 2010

The Temple of a Thousand Bells

Na Mara

My mother said Never marry a man with brine in his veins.
But he netted my heart, my sailor boy, eyes grey
as the Irish Sea, the lilt of the tide in his step.

St. Luke’s bells rang loud enough to sink a ship.
He cast back my veil; the tang of salt caught on our lips.

His first shore leave – I waited an hour at the quay,
handkerchief fluttering like a gull’s wing.
Later, we rocked the oak bed as if we were caught in a storm.
St. Luke’s chimed midnight; he lit a Turkish cigarette,
smoke and story swam around my head.

The Indian Ocean, night air thick as wool, the groaning
creak of a dhow’s hull. A sea dog knitted a yarn –
a temple hidden by waves, a thousand bells,
the high, clear singing of copper, bronze, glass -

I covered my ears.

Morning, he’d gone -
coins in a brass cairn on the dresser,
a ship’s name scrawled on the red bill from the Gas.

Each month a postcard - shipping lines.
He’s chasing Jack Tars tattooed blue with campanile;
maps stolen from a matelot drunk in Marseilles.
Schooner, clipper, bucket tug;
scow, shallop, a chandeliered liner;
now a bamboo raft scouring the seas of China.

Seven years I’ve stood at this window, a Siren
weaving songs of sons and coral-lipped daughters.
I’ll reel him in and – home - I’ll butter his feet like a cat.

St Luke’s bells toll each quarter hour ‘til dawn.
Tonight, I’m drowning in this oak bed,
my belly empty, his pillow wet
with the faint grey scent of sea.


  1. Wow! " sailor boy, eyes grey
    as the Irish Sea, the lilt of the tide in his step.." One of several wonderful, memorable lines.

  2. You are such a quality poet. There are surprises and moments of 'oh, that's SUCH a great word/phrase/line' all the way through. I do hope you enter competitions/send off to poetry magazines. Do you subscribe to Envoi via the Cinnamon Press?

  3. Thank you, Martin and Fran. Too, too kind.

    I am utterly idle and therefore do not send poems anywhere. However, this was performed in a cathedral on Thursday evening, which was delightfully echo-y.

  4. Salty! I saw the video - fantastic. I started to write something then lost faith.

    Did you at least enter MsLexia? Honestly woman - get you bloomin' stuff out there and you'll be up and running.
    much love xx
    p.s. I have an invitation for you - will turn phone on at some point!!

    WV - hypsyindi... who's she??