Issue 29: Aidan Semmens

Another Country

for Geraldine

by boat, for how else would they come?

Sigurd and Thorfinn and Salif and Ali

fishers and fighters and farmers

spirits of the sea

investing true life in hope

of happier returns

to (or with) Sigrid or Sarah or Alyson

or a reunion on the Island of the Young

off the shore of Eynhallow, Scilly or Ceylon

land always out of sight (but only just)

to misted eyes where spirits roam

where you are ever approaching

and never arrive – or if you do

never leave (investments may go up or down)

and what is the name of the island?

no one knows, or accounts differ

words are not to be trusted

for who is to know if the name

you have signed on this form

is the one you will be known by

in the land of the gods? (isle of dogs)

then standing at the cliff edge

watch weather approach across the water

wavetops whipped off by the wind

tell of those adventurers fallen

into the earth’s mound

Svejn awaiting rescue scratching

in clumsy runes Olaf the oaf

thinks his wife is faithful ha ha

but this occurred

in another time

so consider

what the uniform and the grey suit won’t

countenance: that the evidence

may have been tampered with

files redacted, photos retouched or clipped

(in matters of importance there’s always

trial by scissors and paste)

it’s all there in black and white (before

panchromatic film

red or pink became black, blue

or green rendered white – but who

remembers now the world

was not so simple then?)

and by air on curlew wings

clambering up the sky then

parachuting down, that curlee cry

bubbling across tidal mud and moor

the martin and the martlet

merle in the marginalia

shapes of a faith

inked, painted, sculpted

not compassed in the liturgy

and yes, who was the model

for the Kilpeck sheela –

generic or sui generis? (and who

wielded the tool, or decided –

she or he, they’re

written out, uncarved, unlettered)

bread and circuses, bread and circuses

(but who bakes the bread, who

walks the wire?) – so we’re trussed/concussed

unworthy of trust

unworthy words

but this dream occurred

on another shore

another landing

another border scribed

across the map, razorwire crazing

a once gentle landscape

blank walls awaiting

only the (unborn?) graffitist

the intoxicant paint

slow leakage on the littoral


[Aidan Semmens's sixth collection, The Jazz Age, was published in October to relaunch the Salt Modern Poets series. He lives in Orkney.]

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