R I D I N G T H E G H O S T L Y V E L O C I P E D E
It’s said that drowning can be beautiful
(…though the ones who said it were not the ones who had to drown).
The surrender, perhaps, to the arms of water
Shelley was gripped by—able to fly, but not to swim.
And this my bid to join the fellowship of the drowned—
more terrible than beautiful—these the fathoms striped
with a route-map of light, this my bicycling down and down
on the pedals of my feet with my arms thrown out wide
as if to steer through imploding water the velocipede
whose handlebars I tried to grip, but could not catch.
I was four, father, and washed too far from your reach
and I somersaulted several times with weed, with weed
around my neck, my feet, until you flashed me back to the light;
until you fished me out like a pup from the drowning bucket.
T H E I N T E R M E N T
When you saved me, father, saved me from drowning
though the Atlantic that tried to drown me called me back
I burned my shoulders in the sun as I buried you in sand
from your chin to your toes, while you lay like a dead man
with crazy hair, snoozing with fag in mouth,
your ribs rising. It felt like an act of commitment
to bury you, to dredge the moat around you deeper
and deeper, leaving your head exposed and smoke to rise.
I was kept ashore for safety, but wanted to wade back
into the glimmering—where light perched, it tilted and dipped.
Now I had a new mother, I thought, who’d taught me
the vitality of fear which felt like reverence,
I needed to do it well, tamping from end to end:
to bury my father, who snoozed, in a dolmen of wet sand.
poems by Tim Liardet from Priest Skear (Shoestring Press, 2010); reprinted with permission of the author