This week we are celebrating the launch of new chapbooks from two of The Clearing’s editorial team: Dazzle Ship by Isabel Galleymore and Sky Burials by Ben Smith, both of which are published by Worple Press

These collections explore many of the themes at the heart of The Clearing: ecology and folklore, the complex relationships between people, plants and animals, and the links between language and landscape, the domestic and the wild.

 

 

 

THE CRAB

by Isabel Galleymore

 

Sunbathing on basalt,

the crab is a miniature

cedarwood stage

moving upon pincers

and ginger-haired legs –

empty of actors,

this stage casually

bears a backdrop;

a skywash of sea,

a suggestion of birds,

how its scale frames

an old local story

with these barnacles

empty, ashen

as blown volcanoes.

 

 

 

 

ST. PETER AND THE STORM PETRELS

by  Ben Smith

 

Footsteps on water.

 

Dawn clear as prayer.

Bodies hanging over water

 

like small, dark beads.

 

How long have they been out there

treading slowly across the bay,

staring down into the salt-clear distances,

scrying for storms?

 

There was a time when a saint walked on water.

We saw him – a bright light crossing the bay

leaving a trail of taut, still water

marked with footprints.

 

He left long ago, turning west

on his weightless march,

leaning into the heft of the waves

like a restless ship.

 

We still wait for him to return,

but perhaps, lost or driven mad

by such winds, such distances,

this is what he has become –

 

a petrel hanging over water,

staring down as if in wonder

and pattering its ragged dance

 

to the distant, scudding footfall of storms.

 

 

 

 

HOLY WELL

by Isabel Galleymore

 

Legend tells that the well contained 3 fish,
and as long as St Neot ate no more than one
fish a day their number would never decrease.

 

Those seeking health, those whose
cells do not divide quickly enough,
visit this small installation of blessed
multiplications an angel once promised
– two fish will be three fish by the next
day, and always, as long as you only eat
one
. There are no fish now – but where
there’s water there’s a whether of matter
– see how the coins someone’s placed in
the ripple are becoming uncertain of their
solid circles, copying their colour onto
the granite floor until this well fills with
thoughts of halos.

 

 

 

 

DERANGEMENTS OF SCALE

by Ben Smith

 

Environmental slogans follow horrifying predictions of climate chaos with injunctions, no less solemn, not to leave electrical appliances on standby or overfill the kettle. Such language enacts a bizarre derangement of scales, collapsing the trivial and the catastrophic into each other

                                                                –   Timothy Clark

 

 

I boil the kettle and the crow is back at the window.

This has happened before. Maybe it has always happened.

I used to know a thing about birds – something

about feeding habits, something about patterns of flight –

but from here this crow looks the size of a tower block.

He walks the length of the horizon, staring at himself in the glass.

 

I boil the kettle and a tower block falls. It’s okay,

I knew that this would happen. There were signs

in the newspapers and pasted to lamp-posts.

But I didn’t know that the sky would fill with dust;

that the roof-tops, the window, the crow,

would all turn white with dust. I do not know

why the crow is collecting coat hangers, tangles of wire.

 

I boil the kettle and the TV loses itself in a storm. There is no news,

but if I listen at the wall I can hear talk of the weather –

that it will get much hotter, that it will get much colder.

I still have power, but across the street, lights disappear,

as if the crow is stretching his wings.

 

At night, the kettle switches on. I wake

to the sound of flood waters, of foundations murmuring.

I turn over. At least I don’t need to worry about the kettle any more.

 

Through the wall, in the kitchen and in kitchens across the city,

water pools in rows of untouched cups

and crows rise like heavy clouds of steam

lugging themselves towards open windows.