VOCATION

 

 

––as if you can 

suspend 

your living body

in the cove's glassine 

light––in tide's 

slack;

 

––500 million years old,

metamorphosed schist,

Man of War gneiss––

 

a poem-sequence reef 

of riffed human 

utterances, 

vowel-syllabled,

incisor-sharp––

 

treacherous outcrops

of lyric poem intensities

––stillborn;

 

––a chough's cry

echoes between 

headlands, lilt-pierces, 

––unseen 

 

––red hooked beak, 

scarlet feet, slender-

fingered wing tips

 

––a blood clot

snags in soft fog-

folded cerebrum,

––deep brain-

stem swells,

 

a weakness,

like a rock's 

fissure 

 

––a skein 

of carotid 

artery smears 

the film image

 

––cut-down 

consciousness,

the plummet

a moment,

fall-

ing

 

––to have 

kissed 

death 

intimately, 

is a gift;

 

past-present-future

time's netsuke––

 

––end-beginning,

time's illusion, 

 

––a croupier's 

sleight of hand

 

––molecules,

planets––

 

it is a game you play,

no twitch-tell––

 

the lightness of being,

an asthenia

 

––year-days,

day-years,

you stared

into death's 

diamond

 

––you scratch with it now

on the mind's 

dazed lens

 

bruised long hours,

the first smooth 

ripple, like a 

slow-rolled 

marble of 

gravitational

alchemy

 

––above,

day-moon's

anaemic 

thin-lipped smile

 

understated, 

unremarked,

like the approach 

of a new poem

after a long run 

of slack low tides

 

a fractional 

shift––

 

––since humanity 

began, how many 

have watched 

the first wavelet 

of a tide's 

turn across a 

flat glass sea?

 

––the nearest rock pool's

mirror shimmers––

––a hairsbreadth

more water––

 

do limpets anticipate 

the ocean's rise–– 

grip, like you do,

ever tighter?

 

we all need

an anchor,

a daily rhythm––

 

unnatural slivers of clock-time 

divide an indivisible 

present, reflecting 

to infinity––

 

work-time, broken, in this blurring 

of seasons, like a clockmaker

with a watch's steel innards

laid out on an oil-smeared cloth––

 

what time is it?

what hour?

the week slithers 

like the lizard into the shaded rock crevice

 

days, years––

lengthening,

shortening

 

––a shifting sequence 

of gradated light angles––

your upright body, 

a gnomon in the midday sun, 

hours unmarked 

on seaweed-stranded sand,

––your new identity, 

a sundial

with no shadow; 

 

in daylight, you impose 

your illusion of time,

––at night, there is 

no forward sequence,

––you are lost as your dream-

memories drift into 

quicksand––

 

––on the smokey horizon,

three ships slide by,

their cigar-smudges

silent poems 

––blurred ellipses 

between stillborn words

from a dream 

lashed onto dawn's 

miraged waking

 

––human-minnow time

 

the tide's

turn––

 

––it was the smallest

movement of his lips,

eyes––

 

a lifetime ago––

 

slow time––

you climb, 

sit on the cliffs, 

follow the sun's 

fall, moon's 

rise––

all day 

beguiled by 

shifting light-colour

 

––see the distance

you have covered?

 

the pilot of marriage's bi-plane

flies on and on––instruments 

dead, sky-sea reflecting

infinitely––

 

like a monk, 

the serpentine turner

bends his head

at his vocation,

 

as the humming lathe

spins, as the 

earth revolves,

tilts away from the sun––

safety boots ashen 

in the grey dust, 

as he glances up––

clear amber eyes, 

sea-freedomed––

 

––gone now, 

first and last

serpentine turner,

centuries-old stone hut 

carved out of cliff,

knuckled into rock,

part of it––

empty,

 

––miss you––

useless words

 

––you look through the window

out the other side

to the sea,

 

across the sunlit dust motes,

ghost-memories 

of polished bowls, vases,

the solidity of father-to-son 

lathe and hand tools 

no longer an unbreakable chain

not subject to human time's

dissolution,

 

––but the sea is ageless, 

merciless, stows no clues

 

––as if the stone-turner

turned the world

on his lathe,

held it together

 

––secrets, traces––

you had to earn the right

to a rare fiery serpentine piece; 

to be gifted––

 

––you have learnt

the value of human time

the hard way;

 

does he still hold you 

in your mind's eye

as you hold him?

 

does memory's scent 

hang in the air––

forever present?

 

––you turn your poems,

unfinished, broken,

secreted away,

 

––lifelong apprentice;

 

time dissolves as you write

––do you understand now? 

––it is all one poem, 

this double vision,

an unexpected 

gift––

 

 

 

 

 

Alison Smith is a poet and a writer. She recently completed a Creative Writing MA at the University of Lincoln and is managing editor for The Lincoln Review. She is working on her first poetry collection. She is the editor of, and contributor to The Big Walk: It Takes a Decade (Lincoln: University of Lincoln, Justice Arts and Migration Network, Lincoln Institute for Advanced Studies, 2020), an Associate Artist for the Justice Arts and Migration Network, and one of the student poet-contributors to the film poems "5 Voices" shown at "The Wings of Technology Festival," 2020 and to "Poetic Conversations," responses to "I Am a Refugee, But . . ." in 2019–2020.

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