I’ve been working on haibun poems with the Eyemouth writers’ group Eyewrite recently, and this is the first of two contributions from members.
Passing Cape Horn; a haibun
Salt-haired and slightly insane after a wild run up from the south, we crowd to the rail to gaze on its black and majestic presence. It feels almost familiar, this place that the songs tell of, the ship-devourer, the mariners’ rite of passage, the hinge between oceans where a continent tails off in a rickle of bones.
Jagged stacks, nameless headlands fade away in chill murk towards the far coasts of the Pacific – a dream of warmer waters, tempting, deceptive. One might just slip secretly by … The dragon sleeps with an eye-slit open, a dwarfed and solitary sail flitting careless as a white moth beneath the very shadow of its jaws.
The seas relax as we come into the shelter of the land. The wind that blew hard from the north-west is slowly veering in our favour, and the helm runs easily, the air grown less raw. In deepening twilight we leave the great gnarled reptile head astern, the Midgard serpent, snout half lifted from the water, brooding on its own legend against a baleful smouldering afterglow.
At last we can square the yards, unfurl topsails and courses – floodlights switched on to aid the ordered chaos, a team to each mast hauling and slacking off, sheeting in and making fast. Then a final tidying of the decks, the tangles swilling underfoot sorted and coiled, rope by rope gathered up for the wet planking and hung neatly back on its pin.
Quietness returns, but for a short while the lights still glow warmly golden through sails and rigging, raindrops run glinting along the stretched foot of the canvas and shimmer as they fall. We ride like a vast lantern on the sea.
Far behind us, the fires have cooled to jade-green tranquillity. Ahead, the whispering ocean of the night.
Wind thrums in dark wings.
Blossoming among the shrouds,
the first fragile stars.
Copyright © Hilary Graham 2013
Hilary lives in the Scottish Borders, near Greenlaw. She is a long-standing member of the Eyemouth writing group Eyewrite. This is her first haibun to be published.