from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Sunday, 3 July 2011

leaving only ripples...

What do you do with a handful of poets for an 'awayday'? Take them out on the water, of course, with a picnic, fire and beautiful painted canoe on the quiet reaches of the Dart, on a perfect summer's evening...

And so, after our usual first-Saturday poetry workshop, eight of us headed off to Tuckenhay (named from the process of 'tucking' wool, a way of cleansing fleece prior to spinning it, carried out in the woollen mill in the [hay] meadow that existed here prior to the papermill set up in the early 1900s on the same site).

I'd noticed the small fleet of these gorgeous open canoes moored up on Bow Creek many times in my walking around here, and on my last visit I bumped into Phil, who, I discovered, owns them and hires them out. My idea was met by the poets with enthusiasm from some of them, resistance from others, and a mix of enthusiasm and trepidation on the part of a couple of poets.

Anyway, we set out on yesterday's perfect early dusk – a dream of a hot summer evening – on a dropping tide, with a dropping wind and mullet jumping, down the creek to the Dart proper, under the steersmanship of Phil, himself a poet.


How good to be swinging this paddle on this dropping tide, evening sun on my back and the river's face scaled with shifting starry freckles and these people with me paddling in tune, the rhythm of us as one to the metre of the river's poem, faces now glimmering with riverlight as are the stone banks and the creekside trees, the quivering of light shed from the heart of our solar system

water spilling through the valley
like laughter, like larksong through air
an unfurling dream of water

sparks playing on the water as we will later be conjuring sparks on the land from flint and steel on the riverbeach to light our fire of sweet chestnut twigs

shelduck and ducklings picking through samphire and bladderwrack
a juvenile swan, cruising, leg hiked over back
and a stand of young elm soon for the chop of the birchbeetle says Phil
a trio of cormorants like dusty umbrellas pitched up in that oak
just below the white egret's crowning

and the beach, wind easing, sun high (seven o'clock, hot hot hot)
and the red South Devon cattle nosing the tideline

Phil teaching the art of firelighting with flint

kettle on the boil and

eight poets capturing the moment

and the stream of moments – how to fix riverlight and water and weed and birds and the pulling-together of us all for a water dream and how to find a way to spill silence

it's hard to imagine another kind of evening, now says Jane; and how can we not agree

and floating on the edge of it all on the upcoming tide
Miranda with her red hull and blue Celtic knotwork swirls
sun-dazzle in my face

and behind us this forest, unmanaged says Phil for 15,000 years

bordering what was a deep gorge, a sea-gorge 160 feet lower than now, than the Dart
and the wild things that lived then: bear, a little straight-tusked elephant,
possibly hippopotami, wolves, and the sabre tooth tiger
whose birthing cave we glide by later, under tree overhang

and now this one small waterbird homing
skimming the river

and this indescribable light

and the way we can't sing our First Nation paddling song in a round for laughing
and what flows between us all now –
the way it can be
the way the river flows

leave only ripples, says Phil


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