Poetessa speaks..

Poète, scénariste et parolier....Scottish dilettante and poet. This blog has some of my current poems, as well as those of other poets I admire.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Sea Fret at Holy Island



The Holy Isle was covered

in a sea fret --

As we came from sunny, Northumberland fields

To Lindisfarne Castle in the mist

The damp sand puddled at low tide

like Mont Saint Michel.

The green shelter on the bridge stood

empty, and markings showed

exactly where this very spot would be submerged

by the North Sea rushing in.


He said, in Northern tones

–( my mother’s tongue)--

How he remembered the North Sea coast

from childhood –

How a lovely day upon the shore could suddenly turn

cold and damp

from a sea fret –

engulfing the warm sand.


This sea fret….endless meeting of water and sky

On our crossing over to the Holy Isle

of saints and martyrs, Cuthbert, Aidan –

Seafarers for Christ.

Their effigies facing the very sea from which they came.

The church’s red granite ruins

headstones effaced by salt and mist –

a pentimento of runes and ancient hieroglyphs.

Through the narrow castle casements I could see

the distant sea and fog

Breathing -- like a wraith creeping in.


Haars in North East Scotland rush in like this:

through empty gates /

The ancient Firths of Forth & Tay enshrouded,

Sounds of fog horns -- distant and invisible.

The mist is silent, muffled

The familiar horizon disappears from view –

Travelers lose their bearings,

And ships drift ,

languorous in time.



Returning home again –

Across this narrow isthmus,

Wooden stakes rise like a giant’s causeway from the rippling sand.

We are driving through an invisible sea—

Traveling through the home of watery ghosts…


in this shiny, bulbous kelp upon an imaginary sea floor

They are slowly creeping in…


in our ears.


In this sea-fret, I am untongued--

No longer lost,

unwinged –

A sea-bell clanging

mouths the coming of high tide—

And my return from something rich and strange

Into a kind of grace ---

Into the requiem of the sea.

The endless, relentless chants of these

tides are taking me

home --

And I can hear my voice again.

© Rita Cummings 2008

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