Blackbox manifold

Issue 15: Geraldine Monk


Portland. Plymouth.

Cyclonic becoming northwesterly 5 to 6.

Very rough or high. Rain or thundery

showers. Occasionally poor.

When Swiftsure became Speedwell

destined for America it was sabotaged

by a well-worried crew. The Mayflower

stepped up to the plate and did its

legendary bit of ocean ploughing for

sixty five days the Pilgrim fathers prayed.

A whole month it took to dock unchartered

shores rife with shoal rifts and rock death.

Two lives lost. Oceanus born at sea.

Most died ashore coming to terms with

new vocabularies. Outlandish graves rites.

Beans of many colours. Beyond-fierce weather.

                        After five leagues the darkness was

                        thick and there was no

                        light. You could see nothing

                        ahead and nothing


I crumble warm leaves of Greek

sage on turkey. Slices of after-pink

sky appear. Peek-a. Seep-a. Bird calls.

Need a dash of oil.

Robin returned alien-voiced

crackling all night long

destructive notes.

Clear air turbulence.

A New England

ice storm on the rampage.

Biscay. Trafalgar. FitzRoy.

Cyclonic. Occasionally severe gale 9.

Rough or very rough. 

Who sails here? Fisher folk. Finisterre a word

haunting itself with end of the earth yesterdays

ancient wireless ears tuned to the

Wild Bay of the Departed.

What goes down on the event horizon?

A motley crew this way comes with

clinker constructs & papal banners.

Gilded figurehead crafts a bawling infant

blowing poisonous bubbles out its ivory

trumpet spout.

Struth. Marauding Normans. Coming for

uz butter-stinkers crouched in ditches 

umbles pounding louder than a force

eleven gale awaiting our genocide

praying for a storm surge to save our

dark-night soul-sob bacon.

A storm surge did arrived but in

1099 not 1066 the last two digits

belly-up and bedevilled.

We were all long gone by then.

Dead or interbred. Women

tuk brunt ut latter.

                        After six leagues the darkness was

                        thick and there was no

                        light. You could see nothing

                        ahead and nothing


Fine words butter no fish. Parsnips.

Heron cuts a slash across the dusk.

Rheumy-eyed. Bedraggled. A right sorry sight.

Set upon and proper upset. Come home pet.

Hebrides. Bailey. Fair Isles.

Northwest gale 8 to storm 10.

High or very high. Poor. Occasionally

very poor.

Decluttering the radar of echoes.

Dissonance. After peace came boat

upon boatload of Vietnamese

bobbing cross black & white

teatime screens. For weeks a

drifting watched without permission

fees or film rights or running water.

Pirates mustered. Move in. Murdered.

Stole life. Sex. Keepsakes.

Bundled hopes.

                        After nine leagues the darkness was

                        thick and there was no

                        light. You could see nothing

                        ahead and nothing


Cloud seeders. Feeder clouds. 

Lenticulars. Curly kale is all the rage.

Fat’s back. Posh offal. Umbilicals.

An indiscriminate weather bomb bellows.

Wounded bull of heaven. Wheelie bins

never stood a chance. Venetian blinds

skiffle a metal riff. Walls give. Whatever

is happening is happening. Throughout the

land mothers pretend unfear in front of children.

Shepster-starling misread the situation

totally jam-jarred its reflection streaming

glass beads into a ghastly omnishambles

winging a prayer and a hiding to nothing.

Sole. Lundy. Fastnet. Irish Sea.

South or Southeast becoming cyclonic.

Wintry showers. Rain or sleet at times.

Sailing again to the Isle of Man for

fresh brown crab on fresh brown bread.

Tender-hearted queenies. Family folk.

In December 1909 the Ellan Vannin vanished in

the unforeseen. All aboard lost. At first light

bags of turnips and an upright piano

boogied up the Mersey. The first bodies

appeared five days later. 

                        After seven leagues the darkness was

                        thick and there was no

                        light. You could see nothing

                        ahead and nothing


Cat cradles. Baby bones. Tinsel seas.

Milk teeth. Sea seethe. A giant wave of

overwhelm ambushes me in the deep

winter kitchen. It came from nowhere.

I hold a sob at bay. Drain of vitamins.

Hasselback potatoes sprawl well-oiled.

Profane against celestial chou-fleur

peppered with tusks of nutmeg.

Meet My Choir on the radio.

Ear-split rattles herald the

return of the jays on the crest of a

squall bulging after dark into

hyperphysical conundrums.

The Bay Area

This may be the place Ptolemy dubbed

‘Morikambe’ between the rivers

Ribble and Solway. Or it may not. 

Morecambe Bay in the county of Lancashire

is not strictly a bay but a multiple estuary. A

thing of lucid beauty. A thing of light-spawned

shimmers. Hefted waters. Gravid daubs.

Bits of seethe and brood. A bent sea.

A crooked bay. A serial killer.

           The really bored lad dragged his face from the screen

           just long enough to pass our room key. The only

           inhabitant we’d seen since check-in. A high season

           seafront hotel abandoned to vacancy. Unverified shades.

Uplift of heart cockles brim with abstraction.

Salt flats. Mud flats. Sand banks. Quick sands.

The largest intertidal flats in Britain. 

Shallow sub-tidal sands. Tide-washed channels.

Shingle spits. Skears. Skerries. Insinuations. 

Sibylline loops of calligraphy. Five tidal bores leave

calling cards across the bay. They will deviate.

Tease. Render evidence untraceable. 

           An obscure foreboding feathered our shoulders.

           In the deserted dining room a flotilla of napkins

           sailed in the half-dark stiff with untouched

           attitudes. Unblemished.

The sea was out. Way beyond God’s back 

out. Doing its end-of-pier vanishing act.

Somewhere out there five tidal bores loosening

up. Oiling roars. Flexing oxygenated muscles.

Mobilising hydrogen. Combined forces gathering

obscene amounts of protein. Let’s name names: 

Leven. Kear. Kent Wyre. Lune.

Dangerous texts spike the coastline




                          MEDUSA COMPLEX



                   NABBERS. SOUL SNATCHERS

Submarine swards of smart red fescue, thrift and

plantain. The muffled thrum of trembling sea mats.

Short-snouted sea horses. Phosphorescent Sea Pens.

Free-wheeling crustaceans. Phantoms from the glacial

relic of the Lune Deep. All life begat and spat teeming.

           We mount incrementally unlit stairs.

           Scrabble for landing lights. Wade through

           troughs. Corridors. Reek of stewed sea-cabbage

           leached from air vents. Sulphuric. Sixth sense on

           full alert. Lugworms. Zooplankton. Real-time dread.

Incoming tides can outrun a man. A spooked horse.

Shortcut chancers. Long-legged children. Economic

migrants. From nothing to neck-deep in minutes. From

quick blood to clarty corpse the salt & vinegar air fills up.

Melancholy lodges between teeth, darkens the living daylights.

           Our room was cellular. Deeply dingy. Forlorn

           pillows. Lumpy bed. No soap. Dialled O for reception

           got a monotonic sea drone. Freak wave. Mobile also

           dead. Outside the door a squall of shocking laughter.

           After midnight runners. We make makeshift barricades.

           Curl-up childish and close. In fitful sleep I proffer a

           disheartened cheek to a no-kiss.

           The sea grew.

The Lune Deep is a marine canyon running from

Fleetwood to The Bay. Ice age scar tissue. Miles of

deep throat vertiginous reef cliffs. Tumbledown flora.

Configurations with eyes. Spiracles.

A wonderworld beneath our wonderworld.

           We begin the descent to the breakfast room.

           Hope sinks without trace. Shrouds of white linen

           draped everywhere. We find a small clearing of

           orange Formica set for two. We sit and wait. And wait.

           Nobody comes. Radio babble drifts through frosted

           glass. We enter the kitchen. Our hunger is greeted by old

           bacon smells. Rolling news. Piles of raw chicken. Uncooked eggs.

           We shout for service. Shout at the top of our lungs. No one came.

Geraldine Monk’s major collections include Interregnum, Creation Books and Escafeld Hangings, West House Books. In 2012 she edited Cusp: Recollections of Poetry in Transition, Shearman Books. Her forthcoming book They Who Saw the Deep will be published in 2016 in the USA by Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press. The book has been described by the poet Catherine Wagner as ‘A water-torn triumph, a mercurial inventory of birds, wars, seas, weathers, vegetables and wrecks. With kinetic brilliance and valorous abandon, Monk forages the deeps’. Geraldine lives in Sheffield and is a founding member of the Sheffield based antichoir Juxtavoices. In 2014 she became an affiliated poet at the Sheffield University Centre for Poetry and Poetics.