Eyewear is pleased to feature a new poem by Michael Egan today. Egan is from Liverpool. A pamphlet, The River Swam, was published in 2005 by Paula Brown Publishing and a second, Folklores, in 2010 by The Knives Forks and Spoons Press. His first full length collection Steak & Stations was published by Penned in the Margins in December 2010. Two further pamphlets are due out in early 2011 (I Went to the Ship, Erbacce; After Stikklestad, The Knives Forks and Spoons Press). He is currently working on an anthology of poetry in his Motivist form and a second full collection, Monsieur Dassonville and His Duck.
He Never Got To Caen
Pratt was his Norman name and Ramavath his wished for Indian grandmother’s.
His true name he kept hidden in hollows beside rivers or down the crevices of pub couches.
When he was done with raking dunes so they sloped at the right angles down to the Irish Sea
he’d cross flat sprout sprouting fields to Burscough and his corrugated hut, his flotsam bed.
I met him on an old road near Snape Green when I’d been walking since winter
so my feet were as black as the brogues I’d set off in and as hard as tanned leather.
“I never even got to Caen,” he said, draining his mild, pulled out a bitten through rag
and mumbled “my father gave me this pennant, this peace munching dove.”
Repeated it three times like Tolstoy's hermits, but drunk we didn’t feel the high summer heat
anneal our necks and the midges like awls piercing our skin; melted metal, bored out wood.
“I was an ancient son of Scarisbrick,” he said when we reached his hut by a bend in the Alt,
“last of a lost lot, I promised to take this rag to Caen where others like it might flutter still.”
As summer ending rain titter-tattered on his shack’s roof he sucked on the cloth
like he was sucking out the memories of his walking, the flavours of his guilt.
“I slept on a bench in Portsmouth, woke on a ferry to Cherbourg, naked and bruised,
spent that winter raising marquees searching for Mont St Michel but only found giants
living beneath the stones of Carnac, ran from them along a spit of land
then, naked still, let my body fall into Biscay’s Bay and was found by a fisherwoman
near Suazon before she tossed me back, more bruised, with the day’s bad catch
so I was drowned and drowned again until I was pulled into Brest’s bosom
and taken for a myth, a man made from the depths of the sea’s tossing dreams,
given over to a writer who wintered in a villa on the Isle-de-Batz looking south to Roscoff
but all the words of my story had left me and I clung only to my cloth, now torn, now ruined,
so he let me take passage to Rosslare where I fell into a sleep and did not wake
until I’d wandered my way home and saw those ragged dunes, all piled upon and crumbling,
so wiped my brow with the last colours of my cloth, the faded heralding of my name,
and for months I raked the sand, forgot that name and with each reshaped dune
I thought of Caen, her cathedral and stone, her leftover Norman sons, their scalps
no longer harshly shaven, heads hanging in the lessening of memory, wavering, lost to time.”
poem by Michael Egan; published online with permission of the author