SERPENT & SEA-WINDOW

 

I

 

Just about to step

into a Tintagel Church’s graveyard:

 

I’m first met

 

by a long-stemmed stone-bloom

of war memorial Celtic cross,

its cross-arms flared

fat as poppy petals.

 

Secondly I’m met

 

by a white lifebelt fastened

to a wooden cross. It’s

 

as if graves are figures bobbing

on a surface of an otherside sea,

and this ring

 

is waiting to be thrown.

And the painted name

of the lifebelt’s ship

 

is IOTA is

 

a tiniest amount of

hope.

 

And thirdly I’m met

 

by a flow of curves; by

a sea-wave writhe-glide

of snake crossing

the graveyard’s entrance.

 

So much I want to touch!

 

I see his or her clear-inked

skin-shapes & adder-colours but

announce the presence of

 

a gra ssss nake.

 

So much I want to touch (It’s just

a grasssnake!). I grip

 

his or her tail as she or he slips

into a crack between slates

in the graveyard’s wall. I pull

very very gently …

 

… cool dry smooth lightly-tiled skin

& muscle-tight vibration …

 

… and suddenly slotted jewel-eyes &

a tiny yellow flick

ering of stang-tongue & dark

zag-zig-striped spine & his

 

or her head’s

 

adder-pattern-warning.

And I real

 

ise I’m holding a viper.

 

I’m thrilled as a child riding a bird.

 

And I know I knew all

along what she

or he was I

 

so much

wanted to touch

 

 

II

 

There’s a tight

ratchety zedding as

a young man stalks

a Tintagel graveyard’s grass.

 

He’s dressed in a day

glow yellow vest & orange

black-visored hardhat.

 

BUZZZZ knots

warm sea-air; forms

twines of sound writhing.

 

He’s St George

strimming in the graveyard. I’m afraid

 

for serpents

 

 

III

 

inside the huge hollow stone cross

of a St Materiana

 

a Norman font

with heads crudely carved

at its four corners

all joined

by stone serpents

tails & heads up

curved (apparently

 

representing expelled

grace)

 

the thick smell

of creamy lilies

 

the chancel’s

chessboard floor formed

from edges

of slate leaves cross

-hatched & packed tight

 

and glass-trapped

in stained-light

blond St George standing

horseless, holding

 

upright his

phallic lance

 

and his blood-crossed flag

 

 

IV

 

On a Glebe Cliff, towards

a Tintagel Head, I imagine

 

I’m bitten by a viper:

 

VIPER starsh

VIPER arp sun

VIPER hot st

VIPER ing in

VIPER my fin

VIPER gertip

VIPER goes

 

supernova through my arm

my flesh inflates with

a writhing presence

my gut chucks out all

the parts of world I’ve

tried to pass through

me I’m stretched like

a pollen-cloud on wind

my brain sways like

a bloom of perfume

and my eyes bloodshot

 

roll as I roll

down slopes towards

 

a church of sea-cliff

& vast

 

dissolved-salt font

 

 

V

 

On the way from a Tintagel

to a Boscastle, on a cliff-walk

 

(suggested

 

to me by a poet called

Peter), opposite

 

a tall slaty Matterhorn

of sea-stack (named

on my map as Long Island)

streaked with gull-shit & meshed

round with flapping scraps

of gulls & their cries

like a pane

of moist glass squeaked

by thousands of fingers …

 

I see

 

a sea-window in a steep

slate-stepped headland ridge;

 

a hole in ground sea

can be seen through an eye

to be threaded so

 

I climb down that ridge’s

fragile rocks and pass

 

my whole body through

 

 

 

Iota

 

 

 

Mark Goodwin is a poet based in Leicestershire. His poetry collections include Else (2008), Distance a Sudden (2009), Back of A Vast (2010) and Shod (2010). His poems have been widely published in literary magazines and ezines. More full-length collections are due from Longbarrow Press and Shearsman Books.