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,
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
And I can hear my voice again.
© Rita Cummings 2008