At Spurn Point
The road is a panicked heart, dunes are running into wind
and soon this place will be thinned to a splinter jagging
at the mind’s soft inaccessible places – a bell ringing
in a drowned church at night, the monks running,
the moon swallowed up, the North Sea tipped on end
pouring through the chancel. Have you left it too late?
You must stop here. A tilting sign at the high-tide shelter
three miles from from anywhere that holds long enough
for the light to settle. You must believe you will be safe
shallow breathing in your cedar-planked ark through hours
that seep into every cold space in your bones,
pulling you so far from land that when the sea lets you go
you will find a new coastline humming in the haze – at last
a place you belong, where no one speaks your language
and none of the road signs make sense. Secretive and vast,
the sound mirror decaying in the last field is a wide open lens
still watching for tremors Zeppelins scraped on the air
four minutes and a century beyond hearing. It holds the estuary
in its dish: the insistent faint pulse of names on old maps,
the rumble of incoming sea. Look, you are here.
The commerce of snow
The eighteenth century was the Age of the Commerce of Snow
information board on the icehouse, Val d’Alcalá, Valencia
Today the clerks are counting raisins
in the harbour warehouses.
Of Denia raisins cured in lye.
Of Sir Joseph Hodges’ raisins.
Of raisins of Alicant, of Marabella.
Of raisins entered at the customs house
as raisins of Belvadera.
Their fingers are gummy on the ledgers,
their tongues have thickened.
The sea is hard and blue. It does not move
our painted boats.
High above our syrup afternoons
snow-farmers rake their windrows; day by day
they tread the harvest in our winter granaries.
Every glittering spikelet burns to the bone.
Every day is sealed in ash and straw.
The air is silver, silver.
Soon the ice carriers will come to us,
clattering down tracks in the night,
the pines jumping scared at their shouts.
Their lanterns will blink across our fever dreams;
cold stars turning and turning in a slow minuet
down all the allées of our shuttered rooms.
Winter will shine in our mouths.
We will mouth it
like the dry rivers of Alcalá
streaming with snow melt.
In the harbour warehouses
the clerks work on Sundry Accounts.
They disclose each transaction’s symmetry –
so lucid, so distinct – caught in its fall
through the swirling horizonless hours:
received and payable.
They scratch across the pages
like crows on winter hillsides.
Of moon-cold lemon water for a quinsy.
Of frosted grapes for Doña Ana’s wedding.
Of bonito pouring silver from the purse net
into barrels packed with snow. Of ice.
Of treasuries of ice.
What prospects in our high dim rooms, what lustres
in our heavens! Our estates unfurl like silk.
In the streets, our carts and flags and running boys
revolve in perfect order.
The cobbles gleam, rimmed in silver.
Slabs of ice drip under sacking. Glistening runnels
divide, extend. Beside a warehouse wall, under benches
where the creditors wait, last year’s harvest trickles
towards the harbour.
The blue sea hardly stirs.
each building had left behind only the history of its impermanence
Brooks Roddan, Mare Island
The white mare breaking loose – a constellation in flight
leaping clear from a ship, then she’s running with the breakers,
her eyes wild for green. Yegua blanca the caballeros shouting
yegua blanca, O beauty, streaming into the wind,
into the deafening light. Isla de la Yegua, Mare Island:
dazzle breaking over a bowsprit, speckle noise,
words for an island. Words for deerskin, bone ear ring,
for smallpox, glinting in deep-water channels.
No known word for green. You will say shadow like leaves
where fennel grows tall in welding shops, dry docks.
Five hundred ships – Prometheus, Jupiter, the destroyers,
Swift Boats that went down the Mekong into fields of water –
the Pacific closing over them, the white horses running.
A mare grazing in shadows of leaves, leaves uttering the sea.
Passing further and further inside all the broken mirrors.
Judith Willson has worked as a teacher and in publishing. She has had poems published in magazines and in the Carcanet anthology New Poetries VI. Her first collection, Crossing the Mirror Line, will be published by Carcanet in October 2017.