My life as a coble (for DA). A Poem by Marie Marshall.

 

I examine my bones, tibia,

fibula, made new each morning,

as things of wonder

to crawl my fingers over;

*

it has been this way since birth,

a boat launching, clinker-built,

ribs and thighbones my strakes,

that way I can be beached

high on life;

*

humerus, ulna, radius,

from keel to hog to apron,

from garboard to sheer,

the face of each land is beveled,

and the resulting, exulting song

is the little tremor of the water

as I force through;

*

I can’t remember the day

I was first beached,

but it must have been with

the groaning of new planks –

they say boats, before they’re built

exist in a putative sea,

that it is the karma

of the best trees to know chainsaw,

plane, and ocean, to be water-tight

without caulking, to be painted

red-below-white-below-black,

to have a girl’s name;

*

I love wriggling cargoes of fish

and hate fire;

*

I look down on the carvel-built

with their oakum and pitch,

the fast, twisting Lateen whores –

always have, always will;

tarsals and carpals

have taken on the torque

of the currents and undertow,

I tack ceaselessly, new rope coiled,

uncoiled, coiled while I see

white houses cling to cliffs,

white birds describe the sky;

*

drifted in, drifted out,

harboured on a dayglo ball,

bumped and scratched,

the slap of halyard on mast

playing amongst the mathematical

music of the marina;

*

such times of inertia,

barely lifting, barren

in the bob of flotsam,

held against the times

of chop and roll;

*

there is a god of cobles,

half-boatbuilder, half-commodore,

that’s who answers the marine radio;

*

sternum, vertebrae, no heart,

no soul [to speak of], so

when I am beached the last time

I’ll be a perch for gulls,

no shame in that, no shame

to have blistered paint

and a faded name,

no shame at all, nor to forget

my mother who was a tree,

my father who was a rove-punch;

*

the white houses are still there,

voiceless beyond the rattling diesel

and the rasp of tide against the cliffs,

the land is still here, and each day

a different sea reflects a different sky,

there’s no shame in that;

*

the white, broken wake,

the forgotten messages it writes,

there is no shame in that either;

*

up and down, up and down,

ankle to skull, woman to girl,

new, pine-smelling timber

to beached hull, there is no shame

in any of this;

*

sit and sing in your accents,

tell stories, I won’t hear them,

no shame, I won’t want to,

it’s my life as a coble,

not a telling and a hearing of stories,

and that’s a fact.

 
 

Marie Marshall
 

Marie Marshall is an Anglo-Scottish author, poet and editor. Her first collection of poems, Naked in the Sea, was published in 2010 and reviewed in Sonnetto Poesia that same year, and her second collection, I am not a fish, in 2013. Since 2005 she has published over two hundred poems, mainly in magazines and anthologies, but the most extraordinary places in which a poem of hers has appeared include on the wall of a café in Wales, and etched into an African drum at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Her first novel, Lupa, was published in 2012. She is well-known in Scotland for her macabre short stories. Her web site can be found at mairibheag.com. Of writing poetry and sonnets she says, “I did not start writing until 2004, so I am very much a twenty-first century writer. I write anything, any kind of poetry that I feel the urge to tackle ― sonnets included.”

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