Illustrated by Steven Affleck
Listen; because you fear being lost within me
I am going to talk as if I am the North Sea
My breath rolls in to fog up spectacles and seep into your skin
I admit, these salty kisses leave hungry men love bitten,
I’ve lapped at the snags of unfaithful fingertips and hissed
Wade in wade in wade in
To my blurred grey horizons
At first watch they seemed undemanding, flattening
into silvery beaches and a gruff accent.
It told you at once:
I cannot give you the wildnerness
I cannot build you a windswept west coast island
But look, my edges are softening
under the lull of your damp paws, I’ve grown muckle backit
stooping to carry you offshore in a blanket of white haar.
It was winter at Catterline
when you came to me;
the tangled roots of your chestnut hair streaming
through my kelp claws, my grasping
thrawn hands some think too cold
for big romance
At first touch they lay warming against the hearth
of your hollowed chest
in loving you
I’ve ceased to exist outwith.
I join the fishwives, perched atop the harbour wall
cradling creel and child, left behind
to keep the fires burning, to set the oil lamps alight.
Though this is not martyrdom;
these little things that make up our living.
Here Clytie will not die, but lives
each indigo night to pace the shorelines
in striped petticoats.
Stretching on calloused tiptoes
she rips the turnsoles from the rocks
and crunches over the ancient bones of those who,
like you, have traced the meandering curves
of my cupid’s bow,
knew my overflowing river’s mouth
Aber, Inver, Amhuinn
It will tell you at once:
In loving we wade in wade in wade in
To a stygian embrace
unpeels our sealskins.