Image by John Hedgecoe

Waterslain: Diz, Shuck, Beachcomber

Kevin Crossley-Holland


Waterslain: Diz, Shuck, Beachcomber

Kevin Crossley-Holland


Poem introduction

This is a group of poems is taken from my cycle about some of the people, seen from a child's perspective, living in the lightly disguised village I call Waterslain - that's an old Norfolk word meaning 'flooded'. 'Diz', Sheila Disney, had a moustache and she used to catch her breakfast with her feet. She taught me to swim and she scared me stupid. 'Shuck' is a huge black dog - a Norfolk relative as it were of the Lancashire Skriker and the Warwickshire Hooter and the mythical Norse wolf, Fenrir. In 'Beachcomber' Aegir is the Norse god of the oceans, the Norse Poseidon.

Waterslain: Diz, Shuck, Beachcomber

Diz

Easterlies have sandpapered her larynx.

Webbed fingers, webbed feet:
last child of a seal family.

There is a blue flame at her hearth, blue
mussels at her board.
Her bath is the gannet's bath.

Rents one windy room at the top of a ladder.
Reeks of kelp.

'Suffer the little children,' she barks
and the children - all the little ones -
are enchanted.

She has stroked through the indigo of
Dead Man's Pool
and returned with secrets.

They slip their moorings. They
tack towards her glittering eyes.

Shuck

From saucer pulks
where pale light lingers longest
we made his eyes.

In this seedbed only think:
Dead Hands wave, Things worm,
marsh lights flicker.

We made his blood from arteries
obsidian in the moonlight,
his hair from shaggy sea-purslane.
His chains are chains of marsh mist.

Skriker, Hooter, Fenrir:
these are his blood-brothers.
We gave him the howl of wind
carried from Siberia.

And witnesses?
with terror or with damp black
earth, one way or another
he stops every mouth.

Beachcomber

Faithful as a wordfisher,
there he goes, old magpie of the foreshore!
Face chafed and chapped like driftwood.

Parcelled shapeless against
winds straight off the icecap
but look! agile even so, jumpy as a tick,
quick in his pickings.

Scoofs along the tideline scurf,
his oily sack full of consonants:
hunks of wax,
and seacoal, rubber ballast, cork,
sodden gleanings.

And swinging in that shoe-bag hitched
to his broad belt?
Ah! In there, sunlight and amber moonlight,
emerald and zinc and shell-pink,
Aegir's vowels.


from Selected Poems (Enitharmon Press, 2001), copyright © Kevin Crossley-Holland 2001, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

Recordings

Kevin Crossley-Holland Reading from his poems

1The Rain-Giver

2Dusk, Burnham-Overy-Staithe

3The Island

4The First Island

5The Dream-House

6Grandmother's Footsteps

7An Approach to the Marsh

8Mosquito

9from Waterslain

10Orkney Girls - an extract: The Girl at Gurness

11Sounds

12Do You, or I, or Anyone Know?

13Here, at the Tide's Turning

14Solvitur Ambulando

15Across the Water

16The Language of Yes

17Still Life: Eleanor with Field-Flowers

18Leaf-Girl

19White Noise

20Light Weather

21Counting Her Steps

22The Fox and the Poet

23Translation Workshop: Grit and Blood

24Idling

25The Heart-in-Waiting

26Like a Small Sigh

27Limoges

28The Grain of Things

29The Art of Picking Blackberries

Books & cds by Kevin Crossley-Holland