A Friend Across The Sea

October 2, 2016






US poet Martin Edmunds read about our festival. He would love to be in Aldeburgh to participate, but this poem is sent in his stead and to wish us well. Edmunds lives Provincetown. He studied with Lowell & Bishop at Harvard         




Sea Chantey


Is a lifetime now I beg one night with her,

to share my berth twice eight bells or one tide

from full to dead ebb and to flow from wane.

You t’ink dat I got water on dah brain?

I spy her each night t’rough dat porthole pane,

grimy wid diesel and haughty like a bride.

You go say I mad from all dah salt

my cut palm soak up, but it not my fault

she call me in the silence of my watch

while I and I cut z’s in the crow’s-nest crotch

of the mizzen, or else it all the drop I drink—

before I learn smoke—like some rumshop sink

when with Othello I sob and drown my sorrow

nightly at the Mermaid on the morro.

How many times your hands telled the black

rosary of knotted sea wrack?


Sea be humpback, sea be flat,

it make no matter to a tar like me—

it go be irons for eternity

and then the always of a following gale.

I seen St. Elmo light up like a tree,

the world war of five jimmies in a pail,

stars floating like glass bobbers on the sea

(net set too deep to catch the mackerel    

who feed on shiners what study in her school).

I never been to school, the printed page

is Christians and Moriscos and their rage

is black on white, nah? I done with bookish lies,

their bit of mischief, and then too, besides,

I know she never stoop to be my bride.

O Moon, if all my prayers go be blight,

put out the light and then put out the light.


And then a tremor go right straight through me     

just when the sun is failing, six, six-thirty.

I stop my shuttle mending.

Gentle-gentle I lie down my net.

I feel all icy and my brow is wet.

My spine start up ole story when I stan’

with Krik? Krak! Krik? Krak! like a griot man.

Old as old, right then I try new tack.

I shut me mouth and let the sky slide west.

I glimpse the Moon’s breast,

delicately freckle like the she-crab back!     



Martin Edmunds’ first book, The High Road to Taos, was chosen for the National Poetry Series and published by University of Illinois Press. Boca Negra, a chap- book comprising selections from his new collection, Polychrome, is forthcoming from Arrrowsmith Press. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, The Paris Review, Little Star, Grand Street, The Nation, The Partisan Review, Southwest Review, and Agni, plus other journals and in several anthologies. Espace Croix-Baragnon/Imprimerie Toulouse-Métropole published selections from his prose text La Danza de las Zarzas (Dance of the Brambles) in an edition with paintings by Daniel Déjean in 2013; Frolic Press published the full text in a special limited edition in 2015.                  


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