Under the ocean where water falls
over the decks and tilted walls
where the sea come knocking at the great ship's door,
For the green turtle with her pulsing burden,
in search of the breeding ground.
For her eggs laid in their nest of sickness.
For the cormorant in his funeral silk,
the veil of iridescence on the sand,
the shadow on the sea.
For the ocean's lap with its mortal stain.
For Ahmed at the closed border.
For the soldier with his uniform of fire.
For the gunsmith and the armourer,
the boy fusilier who joined for the company,
the farmer's sons, in it for the music.
For the hook-beaked turtles,
the dugong and the dolphin,
the whale struck dumb by the missile's thunder.
For the tern, the gull and the restless wader,
the long migrations and the slow dying,
the veiled sun and the stink of anger.
For the burnt earth and the sun put out,
the scalded ocean and the blazing well.
For vengeance, and the ashes of language.
Three years ago to the hour, the day she was born,
that unmistakable brim and tug of the tide
I'd thought was over. I drove
the twenty miles of summer lanes,
my daughter cursing Sunday cars,
and the lazy swish of a dairy herd
rocking so slowly home.
Something in the event,
late summer heat overspilling into harvest,
apples reddening on heavy trees,
the lanes sweet with brambles
and our fingers purple,
then the child coming easy,
too soon, in the wrong place,
things seasonal and out of season
towed home a harvest moon.
My daughter's daughter
a day old under an umbrella on the beach,
Latecomer at summer's festival,
and I'm hooked again, life sentenced.
Even the sea could not draw me from her.
This year I bake her a cake like our house,
and old trees blossom
with balloons and streamers.
We celebrate her with a cup
of cold blue ocean,
candles at twilight, and three drops of,
probably, last blood.
I can remember you, child,
As I stood in a hot, white
Room at the window watching
The people and cars taking
Turn at the traffic lights.
I can remember you, our first
Fierce confrontation, the tight
Red rope of love which we both
Fought over. It was a square
Environmental blank, disinfected
Of paintings or toys. I wrote
All over the walls with my
Words, coloured the clean squares
With the wild, tender circles
Of our struggle to become
Separate. We want, we shouted,
To be two, to be ourselves.
Neither won nor lost the struggle
In the glass tank clouded with feelings
Which changed us both. Still I am fighting
You off, as you stand there
With your straight, strong, long
Brown hair and your rosy,
Defiant glare, bringing up
From the heart's pool that old rope,
Tightening about my life,
Trailing love and conflict,
As you ask may you skate
In the dark, for one more hour.
We once watched a crowd
pull a drowned child from the lake.
Blue lipped and dressed in water's long green silk
she lay for dead.
Then kneeling on the earth,
a heroine, her red head bowed,
her wartime cotton frock soaked,
my mother gave a stranger's child her breath.
The crowd stood silent,
drawn by the dread of it.
The child breathed, bleating
and rosy in my mother's hands.
My father took her home to a poor house
and watched her thrashed for almost drowning.
Was I there?
Or is that troubled surface something else
shadowy under the dipped fingers of willows
where satiny mud blooms in cloudiness
after the treading, heavy webs of swans
as their wings beat and whistle on the air?
All lost things lie under closing water
in that lake with the poor man's daughter.