Monday, 3 March 2014

And as the Sea gave, shall the Sea take away

Out in the straits, ships sail on in grey smoke: some with decks empty, some with men checking ropes, and one with a milling crowd taking their last glimpses. Each passing bow wave, rolling over a grey sea flecked with white, sighs on pebbles ,stretched out to muddy patches of harsh grass held back by a rock wall. Overhead, a seagull screeches, falling behind me towards the wooden framed house, where a lit window beckons in the early morning gloom. Five ships have drawn by and away since I rose to sit in the cold wind and remember a child not of mine, but one I loved. As always too soon he becomes a man, losing all innocence except hope. On birthday mornings. I would wake him with a tray made of sea-shore wood piled with a plate of scrambled eggs and the tea in a cracked bull mug. On a full moon, laughing together, it would be thrown high over the beach into the sea. In the mornings, alone on the shore, I would search for another year or to learn if the sea called. When he stirred, I would straighten the eiderdown and then sit on the nearby bench, moving aside his clothes. Sitting up, he would smile and reach for the tray. He always ate quickly before slowly sipping his tea, in silence. When ready we talked according to the mood of the sea: slow some days, others with stories taller then a mast. All the time I ignored the paintings and drawings; some of sailors weeping, others of ships, some with oars, some with sails, breaking apart in wild waves, and others of women like bleached bones on the beach looking out to sea. Some were by him but most were by the others who had rested here. Once they told my future but it was my past that betrayed. A husband dead, a sister dust - both mere words - when once one a chesty laugh and the smell of wood smoke and the other a giggle over secrets and gossip. And I had no child to comfort me. I prayed to the Gods, bled the Bull, and threw doves to the wind. Then on the day of storms, the sea gave me a son, his skin water soft and his breath of mist. I asked not the price. Then when my skin grew to wood bark, my teeth fall as autumn seeds and breasts became bloated baskets, the sea came for me. And my grandchildren found only the sea-spray of a hot summer’s day. Since then, many have seen my eyes and felt my embrace and learnt that no lamp window waits. Yet I keep some safe for women wearing the water of a child. Those children find me. At last the sun breaks away clouds and the light in my window dims. The cup with bull fresh and bold is taken out of my coat and I throw it up and over muddy grass and the sighing pebbles. It soars over the sea that is turning blue and falls towards the distant ships ready for its return.