Way down in the warm blue crevasse
of night its fishing commences as
the boat of millions of fingernails drags
across a blackboard-winged bay.
Across the painted harbour at Antibes
we see a painting of Broughty Castle
in which the back of my father’s head is
looking back at me covered in seaweed.
He was the rock from which I threw all
those nude tarnished spoons like the stars
of heaven landing as soft shoe crabs, or as
a spattered dress on the Phibbie Pier.
Olga the cross-legged ballerina and
Dora-Thérèse of the Arse-Parked Bicycle
look on. Two scoops of testicle
are lifted to a scalene tongue.
Like a yoyo the old apocalypse comet
twirls from Mrs Picasso’s celadon sleeve,
and is shot over the green igloo cheek
of the harbour wall by our common
lust to see through the language, that origine
du monde Venn-diagrammed between
night’s labia of dreaming and grief –
did you hearsee or saw it beneath
the torches like twists of lemon sweets, with
a fork for our gladiatorial silverware? The quartz
fish records your squint like a stubbled general
under its thumbed-back lid of waters;
it is a word deloused of mere speakers,
naked amid this kelp of ekphrasis,
its etymology more like sleep itself, which
our sloth-faced fisher in the stripy T-shirt
of yamming what he yam
has a stab at. Nightmatters prefer their own
spectrum of purple and olive green, but get
crumpled newspapers of anatomies
in the globe of bluejeans and spinepelt, alpha
boat of wet elbows, nostrils leaving
their own faces in a flare of want,
kill glimpsed through displacement
of krill. Dora’s face is slapped by the paint
brush into a doormat of distress above
Thérèse’s breasts and genitals brush
stroked into a pyramid dress and a prone heart.
The reticule of light is folded over
the bow as we lose hold on the heat of
the hand of what those we loved knew,
so improvise the retention of ice.
From the porthole rubbed in
the restaurant window in the colour-
less predawn my father sips his sage tea,
preparing for this ferry that will slip
beneath the vault of ice as though between
a whale’s blue ribs back to that cavewall
of tattoos, back when the word
and the mark and our skin were one.
Beneath the tongues of all the fishes,
the pierwomen claim, is the real name
of his port of call; in one of their bellies,
reply the fishspearers, rests his wedding ring.
Beneath the whalefish eye of a raw sun,
the singing that does not know
it is song; within its lyrics without words,
the word to be that must have loved us.
About this poem
This poem was written as part of ‘The Blue Crevasse’ project, which marks the centenary of W.S. Graham in 2018. The image of a blue crevasse famously appears in W.S. Graham’s poem ‘Malcolm Mooney’s Land’, and the author’s estate welcomed the idea of creating a similar metaphorical space where admirers of the poet might, in a sense, be lowered for a month’s solitary ‘residency’.