Cover Reflections

By | 1 May 2017

for Michael1


Your cover is the khaki-green of earth, a colour that
distills soils and hints at your vocation. It frames a landscape:
Pencarrow – bisected by a dark defining strip,
the land reclining on its hip, before narrowing to a tail.
Somewhere further off it will vanish, as you vanished, an otter,
into the sea. Clouds are streaked with guano, although the birds –
there must be birds – have been absorbed. The foreshore
is bleak, stripped of all but breeds of bush, which angle
themselves against the wind’s unbroken onslaught.
But the sand catches fire, there is a light coming off
the sea and even the sky looks ready to ignite,
were it not for those earth-coloured bands
that marry with the scene, holding the present steady.


The question is not whether, but how it will come back,
the land, the winter afternoon. Will it return in its raw state,
as a plenitude of little bays, each joined to its horizon,
the primitive, the unconstructed moment? Or shrink,
the instant you start trying to recall, to a handful
of windswept crescents – each one of which tugs at you,
eyes, mind, heart, and demands of you language?
Remember how, expended, a shimmering spot will dwindle
like a star. Words that hatch in its place let in contrast,
other homes and habitations that wash alongside
in your bloodstream. Washing Pencarrow out?

Someone will ask. Shaped by encounters with elsewhere,
you possess answers. No one more attuned to catch
the twang of solitude adjusting to the ancient, variously
grounded, call of home. But let them turn your cover over.
You were born to that backdrop, to rock-littered bays
where tussock grass is blown towards the shore. There,
puffs of pale colour transcribe the wind’s elation.
Ivory through yellow, they light this stretch of beach,
witness to a kind of rapture in this unpeopled landscape,
passed on to your daughter, resilient as a gene.

  1. Michael Jackson, anthropologist and poet. The cover of his selected poems,
    Walking to Pencarrow, was painted by his daughter.
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