By Bea Lehmann
Here where the creek divides,
this desolate borderland between
the future and the past…
Now is the perfect moment
to abide in the liminal
as we await the vaccine
and the new normal –
whatever that means.
Grey sky, grey water, yellow marsh;
it is quiet here but for the cowbell-clatter
of rigging from the boatyard.
I’m sat on the bank, held by the spell
of the gigantic pylon across the creek;
as the homely scent of woodsmoke wafts
from the dormant pub behind me.
The tide turns and the tumid river
softly slips under itself.
The landlord sells beer in plastic milk bottles
from under a white awning outside his pub,
clinging to his way of life
as the sea-levels rise and threaten to drown
all of this.
This place, once so busy with imports
and exports, now only harbours
leisure vessels that loll languidly on the swell.
They found an iron-age longboat here once.
The distant rumble reminds me that
now the lorries have taken over.
We wheeze when we walk by the depot
at the other end of the creek;
that concrete expanse that roars
with diesel trucks
that deliver too much
of everything –
whose hydraulic screams drown out
birdsong in the nearby reserve.
So here we are, all masked and
re-breathing our stale exhalations.
They say that grief manifests in the body
as disease of the lungs.
I sit and wait on Hollowshore
for news we’re out of the woods.
I’m not sure if that’s the curlews’ calls I hear,
Burying the dead horse
Le désespoir est assis sur un banc
On his bed, phone propped, recording
he sings Soon may the Wellerman come
#ShantyTok (tick-tock tick-tock tick-tock) we bide our time
He casts the video into the digital sea
and hauls in other lonesome singing fish
happy to have something to do
grateful to connect
NEW UK COVID VARIANT MAY BE 30% MORE DEADLY, SAYS BORIS JOHNSON
An aged folk-song expert declares it was a sea-song, not a shanty
but what would this soft-skinned teen know?
Never hauled on a rope, lugged barrels, barely left his house!
A shanty is a work song
they don’t know what hard work is (They get money for doing nothing!)
“There’s no way I’m getting vaccinated – they’re secretly putting trackers in us” says Tracey, on Facebook
You are goin’ now to say goodbye
And we say so, And we know so
Stash the furlough cash under your mattress
and sleep. Sleep.
We’ll tell you when you need to wake and panic
Poor old horse you’re going to die
Poor old man
Sing me another sea-song, boy
sing me sleepy
so sleepy that I never stop believing this
was all just a bad dream.
As a self-employed person, the pandemic really affected my work, and I found myself with lots of free time. I’m not usually good at being creatively disciplined when I have lots of free time… I signed up for a poetry group which I now attend every Tuesday, so it ensures that I write regularly and gets me to explore subjects that I might not otherwise think of. It can sometimes be difficult finding new subject matter when your world is much more limited due to lockdown restrictions, but this group keeps me fresh. These two poems were born out of the work I have done in this group. Tuesdays are now my favourite night of the week!
I am Bea Lehmann, an artist and poet living in Faversham, Kent. My work often speaks of our sense of feeling adrift in a landscape we have forgotten to learn – disconnected from much that was natural for us. How we have found ourselves bruised by our own technology – tech and information that used to serve us but is increasingly leaving us depressed and overwhelmed. I share my poetry on my blog: www.followingtheheron.com
Burying the dead horse is a collage poem, speaking of the recent internet meme of the SeaShanty. Burying the dead horse is a sea shanty and it is about the celebration that sailors would have after a month at sea, when they had paid off their advance. They would often dump an effigy of a horse into the sea as part of the celebration. Hollowshore is a place just outside of Faversham – on the creek near the Swale – a quiet, estuarine place surrounded by marsh and silt. It used to be busy with barges centuries past – it’s quietness indicative of modern development of goods transport. I sit there and contemplate the epidemic.