paul summers



fish quay fugues


i. doggerland


the old world is dying, and the new world struggles

to be born: now is the time of monsters.

antonio gramsci


& the way will be perilous;

black ice & shark-eyed smiles,

several heaps of hogmanay vomit,

a vacant pizza-box draped with hoar,

its palimpsest of feast & greed,

bleak litany of the new & old,

dog-shit & fag-ends & crumbling roads,

the hours’ lash, the pains of labour,

the endless cycle of peddled fact.

& then the sanctuary of frozen sand;

its confluence of salt & wind-whipped crows,

the hymn of a sea cathedral hollow.

kick off your shoes my love & walk;

due east, towards the burgeoning sun.

plough on through the grave mounds

of haddock-frames & listless kelp,

tread slowly on the pebble field,

avoid the triggers of its toad-back traps;

then walk & wade & catch your breath,

beyond the bar where codling lurk,

let swell becalm your troubled blood,

squeeze shut your jaded eyes & dream;

the rapture of tectonic plates entwined

in acts of violence & of love, the red raw

ooze of magma’s birthing, each push,

each jolt, each breathless force exerted

sees citadels emergent from these waves,

a glimpse of doggerland’s trembling plains,

its strongholds of hope re-rendered

now un-drowned, their beacons still charged,

their gates agape, their monsters slain;

each edifice an altar awaiting our faith.


ii.  the dreamers’ ark

(for tony king)


the oak is seasoned

the sawyers done


each board & beam

is shaved & steamed


rendered immaculate

in barrel curves


planed & polished

to perfect laps


the wrights slip-

glazed by noble toil


each limb in balance

each peg set tight


like lovers’ vows

immoveable in situ


caulked with hope

& dogma pitched


our lines are tied

the mast is set


beyond the lash

of briny rain


the sirens call

a kelpie chorus


in refrain beseeches

us to join them


on their barricade

of angry waves


then truths & lies

file two by two


the ghosts of all

our champions too


then faith & doubt

complete the crew


the flexing muscle

of a lunatic tide


will raise us off

our silt-kissed keel


our petards primed

the mainsail draped


we’ll voyage toward

some promised land


towards a haven

of our communion


this ark of gesture

& good intent


within the warp

& weft of oily sheets


the reek of sheep

the thrill of transit  


its canvas chest

heaved out in pride


repels the barrage

of this storm


its swell embellished

with gilded words


nihil nocent

do no harm




paul summers © 2017

iii.  the searcher

(for nev clay & walter benjamin)


the stakes are raised on days of hope

beyond a yard or two of fraying rope,


beyond the frames of flesh-stripped fish,

a sliver of a willow-pattern dish,


beyond the jet of wave-hewn coals,

the tumbled glass of mussel shoals.


today, an optimism demands of me

a fist-sized lump of ambergris


infused with an ocean’s sacred musk,

the blackest pearl, a narwhal’s tusk,


a celtic cross, a golden fob,

the trident of a nightmare’s hob.


through flow & slack, advancing with the ebb’s retreat,

i sift & scan the tesserae of sand & weed beneath my feet.


the more stringent my scrutiny, the graver the finds;

these bloodless hands exhume the crypts of clerics’ minds,


& beyond the silt bar’s radiant clarts,

uncover a hoard of wordless grief & splintered hearts:


the angel remiel’s discarded wings,

the aria of lies the siren sings,


the storm cleft tiller of a stricken barque,

the corpse of the ascending lark,


a font of black basalt fine-polished by tides

brimming with the tears of drowned sailors’ brides.



the age of mediocrity


it came by stealth                  

though some invited

it came disguised                  

as friend & kin

it walked right in                  

& crept like plague

through all the rooms          

we’d kept as sacred

each town consumed            

each citadel complicit

no cell immune                      

the cure redacted

all grace usurped                    

all hope infected

the mediocre’s                        

bleak contagion

each fertile thought                

remapped as fallow      

each mind re-drawn              

in bland enclosures

their promise stacked          

in putrid piles

bequeath the meek                

this palsied earth




paul summers © 2017