For December's Poem of the Month, I have chosen the poem 'I was Jealous of the Sea' by Martin A. Egan. It is taken from his new collection Sea Journey.
Copyright © Martin A. Egan 2013
All rights reserved
The author has asserted her/his right under Section 77
of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988
to be identified as the author of this work.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.
A catalogue record for this book is available
I WAS JEALOUS OF THE SEA
I remember the sea,
All day long it was with me.
Hitching the coast road,
Around the rim of the bay.
At one end, a distant reach of sand
A wide yellow dinghy with no outboard,
Centred and small, so very small,
And very far away.
The deep flat green as tinted glass
Water, Water, Water,
The tiny crest of white at the bow,
As a man, bright in yellow sou’wester
Clove the surface of the ocean.
I can still see the paddles, wet, flashing, red,
The rubber craft seeming still,
And rooted to the surface of the water.
It’s more than half my lifetime ago
I was travelling with some Germans
In a barrel top, I had hitched a ride in
From the only fork in the long, long road
Fifteen miles away at Milltown.
I was on a pilgrimage —
To find a berth in a perfect commune,
I had heard was in the area, somewhere?
I arrived, eventually, at the silent village,
We would later live in —
The greater part of two decades.
All about me there was water, gusts and spatters,
Creating voices, squalls that rose and fell,
Above me in the furze, below me in the rocks.
The permanent inquisitive fingers of the drizzle
Finding ways, inexorable, slow, invasive,
Into every seam to rest like slippery glue
Against an unyielding surface, of skin, cold, blue.
Being defenceless, against the weather, is what I mostly remember.
In wet shoes.
There were few cars in towns
Even less in the country, carts and horses
Banded wheels, tractors
And water. Always water, fresh rain water
Sea water carried by the wind
Up the face of cliffs
Along with yelps of sheepdogs herding
Shepherds, whistles and commands
Echoing from distant green mountains
Twenty miles away — across the long narrow channel
Of light refracting, always shifting sea.
I would get to know it more closely later
All its changes, patchwork colours, its mystery
So closely I would cease to see it
Familiarity turns eternal into normal —
Until it became in our long silent time
Of deepest losses, my enemy, your friend,
Something to be fought with, mastered, subdued,
Or be defeated by, on my part, at least, it was.
You however with a nature I was somehow lacking
Embraced it as an entity of nurture,
I was jealous, of you, of it, watching as it took you
Immersing you, bathing you, half naked in it.
Your reciprocation? — almost cuddling with it.
As I knew you had, other more responsive lovers,
As if achieving, an indivisible intimate succour, between you,
A palliative for badly damaged spirits — and always bleeding hearts.
I, I now suspect, believing far too many lies
Old wives tales, native superstitions, mythologies
Fantasies of manhood, other such delusions,
Carried on — In the only manner left to me —
Bringing alienation to deepest, bitterest, conclusion.
I am near the sea now, but rarely view or feel it
The way I used to when you left each year,
And I would be sitting in the quiet of the day,
Watching the river pass outside our house.
Carrying, upon its surface, our shades
Buoying them, ferrying, returning them,
To the river’s mouth half a mile away.