It all begins again with the simplest need:
to do business, fishy business.
Under the cover of darkness
they start their journey with a single mind;
across the grassy paddock, from the pea patch,
heading for the river till they find themselves,
ass-deep in each other’s legless embrace,
cold blooded and feverish. And the sign
that they received, these teemed migrants,
to set them off on their stampede,
in search of Ceto’s secret lair?
A whisper they heard among the peas
or in the dew that falls in May and June,
about a birthing pool, far out at sea,
a drifting seaweed-swathed lacuna
that we, of little faith, will never find.
The fall rivers fill. The faithful kind is on
the move and you are waiting with your brine
and honey and your fifty gallon tub stove
ready, set, with smoking shaft behind,
your stacks of applewood, your giant moss-
covered casks, moisture seeping through the staves,
and gazing in, I see what fate has brought
to your door: five hundred or more silver
collars, eyes of glass, beating themselves
through wild compulsion to continue
on their great migration, join their siblings
in the seed-bowl, aching with an ancient lust
beyond all reason, relentlessly
pulsating yet caught —
caught by the limits of our wildest dreams,
on the bar of some Manhattan restaurant…
Weeks later, the souls of those we took
for edible, arrive at their terminus.
Mother current extends her womb of weed.
We wait for word of the next eel-age.
The washing machine, on a long cycle,
drains then goes into its final spin,
its beating heart, a thousand rpm.
At home, a poet frets at her task, wringing
armfuls of damask silence out of white
space. Comes the hot flash. Swamping. Scalding.
In her distress, she throws open the back door
and is struck by the pitch of a child’s sharp
shriek, a tearless caw, from over
the wall in the municipal swing park.
The wind dissolves into the wings. A hover
fly settles. Agitated, a dog barks.
The air, weakly ionised, a hint of rain;
the sun’s rays, thin like skimmed-milk;
the grass meagre, sickly. This housing estate
was built on a henge of heavy industry;
the bones of long dead machinery
lie in shallow graves slowly contaminating
the willow herb on its scrawny brae.
They labour, who tend this nature morte,
trowel in hand. A butterfly bush fans
long fine fingers, a fatsia holds out
its palms wide, as if praying, or as if saying,
we can only beg a living in these parts.
The little white houses, yoked, indentured,
though dignified enough, have nothing much
to say on pastoral; they are workmanlike;
even on a thankful day there’s Dethlac
in the cupboards under the sink,
amongst the scourers and the plumbing.
If she could only lift her eyes five storeys
she’d get a glimpse of the grey firth reflecting
nimbus. As it is, climbing up to the sixth
floor only makes objects appear more
opaque, a paradoxical effect
not solely due to complex atmospherics.
A silent ringing in her ears. She goes
in to answer it. But, as she sits, she sees
it is already written: here is your house;
here is your yard; here your menopause;
here your potter’s field; here your sea-sick
washing machine, spinning, spinning.
Copyright © Ingrid Murray 2013
Ingrid has completed two novels. Her short fiction has been published by Peirene Press. She has just been awarded her Masters in Creative Writing with distinction from Edinburgh University. In 2013 she was short-listed for The Jane Martin Poetry Prize.