Congratulations to Amanda who not only won the Saboteur Award for best poetry pamphlet in 2020 but also made it into our top five at number three with two poems from this wonderful award winning book.
The Names of Seaweed and
Collective Nouns for Birds
When I saw Da’s salt-licked boots,
frayed cap tossed over the peg,
I’d throw down my satchel,
punch the stiff latch
and crash through the scullery,
knowing he’d be
hauling coal from the cellar,
cheeks smudged with black dust,
strangely clumsy out of water.
The tug of the tide left him breathless
when he stayed too long on the shore,
and he lived among us only half-listening
to our land-locked talk,
always waiting to set sail again.
Sea child, he called me,
his slip of a fish,
as we dived down deep
to the coral beds
where mermaids sang
and jellyfish danced in puffball skirts.
Mam hoped he would turn his back on the tiller,
be coaxed ashore to the herring sheds,
be anchored down by kipper and creel.
Yet Da would never trade his fins for feet.
And when I lie awake on summer nights,
the last of the light
holding out in the western sky,
I hear him recite the names of seaweed
and collective nouns for birds.
In dreams I’m deafened
by a clamour of purple claw,
lured by a charm of oyster thief,
double-crossed by a deceit of devil’s tongue,
chased by a scold of landlady’s wig,
outwitted by a gaggle of dabberlocks.
Then at dawn he slides beneath the waves,
drowning with the names still on his tongue,
leaving me alone once more
to run aground without him.
I see you by the bar at Amy’s wedding,
an almost-stranger in your married skin,
much taller than I’d thought you’d be:
my all grown up Chris Clarke-with-an-e.
The boy whose kisses stung my lips
with the tang of sherbet lemons,
sharpening my colours behind the vaulting horse.
‘You’re my bird for keeps,’ the love note said,
scrawled with a cheap dip pen
and smudged where you’d folded it too soon.
Now you call my name as I turn to go,
I feign surprise, blush as we gush our shy hellos
and you say I’m looking well.
Then we both walk away, suddenly unsure,
perhaps kept apart by things unsaid,
half-curious to know our different ending:
grown-up me and Chris Clarke-with-an-e.
The Collective Nouns for Birds by Amanda Huggins is available direct from the author, on-line from Maytree Press via the shop link below, Amazon and all good bookshops.