Mark Goodwin – ‘Serpent & Sea-Window’






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



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



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





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





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



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





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





On the way from a Tintagel

to a Boscastle, on a cliff-walk




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








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.


Share your thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.