Alison Brackenbury – Shanties


So these were chanted on slave-ships.
Why did I not guess before?
Because I hide from just men’s rage,
can whistle softly, flick the page,
Shenandoah, O Shenandoah.

We count our own.  Though tears fall hot,
we do not go back for more.
Out of the dust, let small ghosts come
as quiet as spent uranium,
Shenandoah, good Shenandoah.

‘I love your daughter,’ sang the men,
hands on rope, some rough, some raw.
The colours arched above the rain,
they never sang so true again.
Shenandoah, O Shenandoah.




Alison Brackenbury’s latest collection is Then, Carcanet 2013.  Her next collection is due from Carcanet very early in 2016.  New poems can be read at her website:

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