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Lost at Sea

David Constantine

We suppose, he left 

Our cheerful fug 

No worse for wear 

Than often before 

And under the lintel 

And over the threshold 

That afternoon 

Knowing the tides 

And the way to wade 

Went into a mist 

As thick as a bag.


These islands camp 

Like wagons for the night 

And all within 

Shallows and landmarks 

Home. He stepped 

At one of the gaps 

Into the river of sea 

Where the banks are close 

As often before 

Warm in his aura 

Of fags and beer 

In fog as thick as a shroud.


The sea is everywhere 

Under the window 

Along the wall 

It salts the gardens 

It rides on the air 

Especially at nights 

We taste of it. 

Foreign or local 

Ignorant or sussed 

Put a foot wrong 

And out of our midst 

The water takes you 

As cold as Styx.


A long disappearance 

Weeks, months 

And no one likes 

To chisel a stone. 

The sea is shapeless 

Or every shape. 

Where is its mouth? 

Where are its paws? 

It moves you along 

When you lodge it bides 

Does something else 

For a while, you are shelved 

Then it fetches you 

With a nudge and a shove 

And on you go.


The land stacks up 

On its contour lines 

To nothing compared 

With its going below 

Big step by step 

When you think how the heart 

Of a swimming man 

Stops at the hints 

Of the deep that cruise 

In here from beyond 

That mouth of the river of sea 

Where there’s always a swirl 

Of noise and it’s never 

One second still. 

Gannets impact 

Like arrowheads 

But it’s nothing at all 

Their height of fall 

And penetration 

Compared with below 

Where the drinker drifts 

Who is less and less 

Himself and more 

And more like a log 

And all his mind 

The rememberer 

And stash of dreams 

Gone in a run 

Of bubbles into the fog.


And all’s the same 

The sun and moon 

Exchange their views 

The wind, the light 

Play on and on 

And the clarities 

Are vaporized 

But come again 

And would hurt the eyes 

Of anyone waking out there. 

And ‘Lost at Sea’ 

Is better than 

‘At Peace’, ‘At Rest’ 

‘Asleep’, the sea 

Never sleeps 

Is never at rest 

Has no peace 

Gives none, and he 

Drifting alone 

Is like a draught 

Coming under the door 

Through bar and snug 

A cold whiff 

Of the river running 

A step away 

The river of the sea 

That hurries through 

The crack in our camp 

And carries off 

All manner of stuff. 


From Matter No 6 (2006)