by Char March
She hangs in the autumn water,
a kite in her element
tugged by river-wind.
Her nose searches the currents
for scents of the gravel bed
where she became.
That spring remembered
when she pushed from her redd,
as big as her alevin self.
Through the massacre
of frogs, trout, herons
she has transformed:
fry, then parr, then her smolt-self
sucks salt, slips from her natal stream;
grows as an ocean grilse, wary
of cod, skate, seals, sharks
til, belly fat with three thousand lives,
she snouts out that stream,
fans and writhes in a cloud of milt
over this river gravel.
Now kelt, exhausted,
she turns through the bodies
of dying cock fish,
her hunger pulling her
back to the salt,
Salmo salar was first published in Extraordinary Forms (Grey Hen Press 2016).
by Gordon Meade
Image by Doug Robertson
Whale is annoyed at how
almost everything she says is interpreted,
by marine biologists,
as being part of a song.
How she longs to tell them, in plain English,
if she could, that it is not.
Whale knows the difference
between say, Mary Midgley and Pixie Lott.
How, on Earth, don’t they?
First published in Les Animots: A Human Bestiary by Gordon Meade and Douglas Robertson (Cultured Llama Publishing 2015).
by Helen Kidd
Lower the glass submarine to the invisible realm.
Shift through shoals of tagiconobelinopsis,
through gargling and whistling fish, soft coral
christmas lit by salinopsis under
the silk sheet ceiling drift. Here swooping
through Noup’s kelp like aerialists, a troupe
of guillemots in a flypast; the aurelia aurata ballet,
and hydromeda’s hot cross bun.
_________________________________It’s all a shuggle,
whizz and glide, a slip-stream silvery bubble-wrapped slide.
Big eyed sillocks, palticks; the Busby Berkeley synchronised
pelagic surge; down through honeyweed, holdfast
and maidenhair; dabberlocks where urchins tentacle and graze
all touchy taste; sea gooseberries, polyps’ tubularia,
fizzy fig sponges, sea squirts, phytoplankton, zooplankton,
scillae fibrillating furiously. This great marine stew teems
the Black Deeps, the Merry Men of May, Duncansby Bore.
Out beyond the land and the Shuggi (up to his shoulders)
go the small, the many, the life soup, life support,
water life of every song, into the Big Wide away offshore.
In the sea life shack
by Jan Dean
the children bring their rockpool finds here
to the small aquarium set back and high
above the cliff bound beach
this week it’s starfish
Asterias rubens peachy pink
each one brought dangling
swinging gently from the pinch
of thumb and finger
dripping salt water on the stones
slowly the tanks fill
it seems a glut of common stars
has washed our way
the splay of starry legs
against the glass of our aquaria
shows cream tube feet
a million whitish suckerings
grip the glass
we shut up shop at six and head for home
night rolls in
moon rise finds the stars in flux
crawling creeping up and up
and up and over lip and edge
out of the pale captivity of shallow tanks
to nook and cranny shelf and drawer
when morning comes and we unlock
they’re in the fabric of the building
in all the spaces in between
the stars have taken over
and occupied the liminal
Herring Gulls, Aldeburgh
by Jane Lovell
They lift on the breeze, hover to perch
on gunwales of skiffs, lord it over passing dogs,
children in bright coats cowering from the wind.
Light gleams on beaks, rime of paint
upon the hull, droplets on the oilskin, blade
slicking scales of pinched tin, severed heads.
Some brave it out, land and tug at scraps
of grey flesh slipping between shingle,
while the sea unfurls hissing and gasping.
Towards Thorpeness, holes punched in metal
hum in offshore winds, words hoo above
the drag and slam of waves.
Ghosts of fish, flickering with scribbled life,
roam the rolling dark, clouds of plankton,
shadows thrown by cliffs, wheeling gulls.
An old man passes with his dog; drizzle
follows him along the strand.
It’s growing dark. We watch the pitching
of a yellow buoy against the grey, listen
to the keening of the gulls, the sigh of steel,
voices calling to the lost and drowned.
by Judith Barrington
Halobates (“salt treader”): the only insect to inhabit the open sea.
These old salts are different from the water striders
that pace your summer streams on August days;
they roam like that favorite uncle who disappears
for years on end, then returns one rainy Christmas
with blurry photos—himself on camelback,
his head wrapped up in cotton of startling white.
Just like the uncle, halobates are nomads,
moving around in flocks or packs or clans,
surfing the faces of waves and lifting off
to flutter madly, but never to really fly.
Like the best old sailors, they cannot swim
and diving, like flying, is clearly out of the question.
Renegades of the insect world, these striders
turned their backs on cloddish land, abandoned
tiresome grains of sand for the sea
where they lay their eggs on blades of sea grass
or scummy clumps of algae, and step out bravely.
Even when calm, the slopes of their chosen world
round and flatten, heave, peak and ruffle
like the dunes that form and re-form in the desert
where the uncle pretending he never thinks of home
opens his wind-chapped mouth and laughs,
holding the rein aloft in one wild hand
as cloven hoofs stride across shifting sand.
Poet and Artist Biographies:
As a teenager, Char March watched the coble-netting of salmon off the beach near Berwick-upon-Tweed. She’s won awards for her poetry; short fiction; radio, stage and screenplays. Her five poetry collections include The Thousand Natural Shocks www.charmarch.co.uk
Gordon Meade is a Scottish poet based in the East Neuk of Fife. He has a collection, The Year of the Crab, awaiting publication with Cultured Llama Publishing in Kent. Next year, amongst other things, he will be working on a series of animal poems entitled ENDangeRED.
Doug Robertson was born in Dundee and now lives in Hampshire. An artist and teacher, he has exhibited widely throughout Scotland and the UK and his work is in many public and private collections. He has collaborated with numerous writers, and his recent collaboration with Donald S.Murray, Herring Tales, was included in The Guardian’s top 25 nature books of 2015. For more information, visit his website at www.douglasrobertson.co.uk and www.lesanimots.gallery
Helen Kidd’s collection Blue Weather won the Cork Literary Prize. ‘The Comogues’ was written in Shetland; her favourite archipelago. She teaches, is an editor and prose writer. and is working with other artists on the inter-generational Waving Hello project at the Ashmolean, exploring cultural diversity to promote insights into refugees’ lives.
Jan Dean is better known as a children’s writer than for her adult poetry. From the North West, she now lives in the South West and works throughout the UK as a poet-in-schools.
Jane Lovell is the Poetry Society Stanza Rep for Warwickshire. She has had work published in a number of anthologies and journals including Agenda, Earthlines, the North, Dark Mountain, Mslexia, and Ink, Sweat and Tears. She won the Flambard Prize in 2015 and was recently shortlisted for the Basil Bunting Prize.
Judith Barrington has published four poetry collections, most recently The Conversation and Horses and the Human Soul, and two chapbooks: Postcard from the Bottom of the Sea and Lost Lands (winner of the Robin Becker Chapbook Award). She was the winner of the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize and teaches in the USA, Britain, and Spain.