POETRY AUGUST 6, 2013
“a depe horlepoole quhairin if schippis do enter thair is no refuge but death onlie”
Alexander Lindsay, A Rutter of the Scottish Seas, c. 1540
Thickening in these narrows to some height and speed,
squeezing through the Great Door, Dorus Mhor,
the sea’s so high it’s climbing over itself to get through.
They call these “the overfalls.” A sluice through a bottleneck.
A great seething. The frenzy of water feeding on water.
Seen from above, the tidal race is a long army moving fast
across a plain as flat and grey as a shield of polished steel,
to reach, at the end, the terrible turbulence of battle.
A blue stream turned to a gutter of broken water:
water that’s stood its ground, churning; sea
kept back and held in standing waves:
walls of water, each as tall as a church door,
endlessly breaking on the same point—
each wave swallowing its own form
and returning, re-making itself, chained there
on its own wheel, turning black to white to black.
The sea gets stranger beyond the sentry waves—
a round of slow slack-water, barely moving,
ringed by raging white: a close,
oily calm, unnaturally smooth, like a metal blank.
Then you see them—these
errors on the still surface—sudden
disturbances, boils that bulge and blister, burst,
small holes that appear, whirling open
as if a hundred sink-plugs had been pulled.
Then the huge round rises up: dead-level, streaming,
upwelling, holding its shape like some giant plate
that’s been lying just under the water
being lifted up fast and then
dropped back down, the sea
sucking in after it,
from all sides, into its absence, waves
shearing over, folding in to the core, the depth
and the great black gullet of loss.
The maelstrom. The long throat of Corryvreckan.
The opened body of water that today we rode across.