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DENISE BLAKE

 

 

 

denise blake


Denise Blake’s second collection, How to Spin Without Getting Dizzy, is published by Summer Palace Press. She is a regular contributor to the RTÉ radio 1 show Sunday Miscellany. Denise read as part of Poetry Ireland’s Lunchtime Series and at Ó Bhéal, as well as many other readings around the country. Some of her translations are included in Selected Poems,
Seán Ó Ríordáin; edited by Frank Sewell.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lines from West Cork

 

The pier at Schull on a blue-skied Autumn day,

orange and red buoys bob all through the harbour

showing that the days for pleasure crafts are over,

any boats here in this season work for their living.

A fisherman in wet-wear dungarees sluices out

his small trawler with a worn yard brush, pushing

remnants of shells, fish and broken nets to the edge.

 

He doesn’t see me, in my red coat, up on the pier,

or else chooses to ignore me, the only person around

but obviously a stranger, and not of this fishing world.

Down in the water, what has held me to this spot,

a grey seal circles the trawler, dives and reappears.

The fisherman ignores him also, seeing no appeal

in the sleek grey head rising up at the starboard.

 

I am not a stranger in this place, no charmed tourist.

This area is the source of my father’s people,

the strain of West Cork genes; where my widowed

grandmother hauled Dad and his brothers into adulthood.

This pier is where my father gained sanctuary as a boy,

gutted piles of fish, lugged rancid nets, dragged ropes,

just for the reward of a boat trip around the harbour.

 

The seal takes his gaze from the fisherman’s

work, turns his whole body away from the trawler

towards my direction, suspends like a human

treading water as he locks his look on me.

His large-eyed stare is dark, and layers deep.

Himself and myself watch each other, like close

friends trying to communicate over a distance.

 

I’ve just come from visiting my grandparent’s grave.

Once again I saw the difference in their final years.

Paddy McGill, passed over at 32, a young husband,

Mary lived into long life. Dates on black marble

show that as she stood and watched the coffin lowered,

she couldn’t have known she was carrying my father;

would be rearing three sons and struggling to survive.

 

With a sudden plop, the remains of the fishing mess

puncture the purling waves and the seal disappears.

His barrel-shaped body undulates just below

the surface. Another scoop flies through the air

and lands in the saucering ocean. I see the width

of his girth, light patches of rough skin on smooth

battle-grey. I wait, but the seal doesn’t reappear.

 

I want the fisherman to stop his routine, give pause,

but it’s as if I’m not here, am a figment of imagination.

Leaving, I look towards the shorefront and the scattered

graveyard. My grandmother was only carrying Dad

weeks before his father died; enough time to let life flow

to my father; to me and my siblings; to all our children.

Enough time to make a fathomless presence in this world.

 

 

 

©2014 Denise Blake

 

 

Author Links

 

Denise Blake's website

Poems by Denise Blake at Poethead

'Lighting the Flame': poem by Denise Blake in The Burning Bush 2 (Issue 5)

 

 

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