Deborah Harvey – Three Somerset Poems

Winter Floods, 2014

Rain spreads
like elvers swarming upriver,
several thousand in one night,
dorsals cutting watery moorings,
slitting the swollen bellies of rhynes,
spilling their guts

When it stops
we climb the ridge, too high
to hear the chug of pumps,
motorboats bringing vital supplies,
the oh-oh-oh of startled pike
in garden weeds

Through mirror-images
the sun describes new geographies –
long-lost seas strung with isles,
trees that last week lined raised roads
recalling wooden causeways
built above the mire

Squinting up through rippled light
the summerlands remember
hull-shaped shadows, fire, nebulae of blood –
the red and savage Saxon tongue
licking to the edges
of the ocean

Certaine wonderful ouerflowings, 1607

It was the day the dog ran off,
a Tuesday, late January, still early
in the morning

and I’d have been out with the others glatting
but some of those congers are thick as your leg.
I needed my dog.

I was searching the fields when I noticed it coming,
thought it was mist sparkling
cartwheeling in off the sea

or something stranger, the mountains of Wales
topped with frost and roaring closer
over the Severn.

Then I saw sheer cliffs of water,
those on the seashore
lurching, ankle-bound in mud

and I fled up the lane but a punch in my back
sent me hurtling into the dirt, deep
in unbreathable darkness.

Salt in my eyes, mouth, nose,
fire in my chest, the bark of a tree
beneath my fingers.

Weeks later the dog came back limping.
I had no home, no kin, no living,
nothing to give him.

Carantoc and the Dragon, c 500

As arrivals go, his was inauspicious.
No sooner landed on the shore
than the waters
heaved their sea-green scales
and boiled and hissed.
Not to mention the king
crying Here be dragons!
from the safety of the marsh.

Holy fire could tame any beast
even as sand turned to glass
beneath coruscating claws
but the saints are gone now.

Only the dragon watches the sea
from its cliff at Hinkley.



Deborah Harvey is a Bristol-based poet. She is currently working on the final draft of the manuscript of her second poetry collection, Map Reading for Beginners. It will include these three poems, and is due to be published this month by Indigo Dreams.