Monday, February 15, 2021

Requiem for an Aging Sea

I swept the tidal mass unto the shore

since beginnings of the earth: land and sea;

since sun and moon began, and first-born tree

was rooted in the soil of rich brown lore.

There was no stolid unforgiveness here,

there’s no hand of navy retribution

where we must force bloody revolution

of scarlet martyred front, the woman’s tier.

The ocean was your first love, when men left

for the sea: sailors with no worldly cares

except vast liquid horizon, dulcet

moon dipping the waters, and sunlight deft

brimming over the wooden orange barrel;

and the mast with its tall stalwart concept.


If the sea would cry out in white anguish,

the waves would crash in tide upon the rock,

cragging paths of the shore without prism smocked

solace, the water would be a British

maid, upon a beauteous isle off the coast,  

lapping the sand of minute grey and brown,

standing there in her apron, her mouth frowned; 

she looked out to sea, awaiting the lost

ship, willing it to return from the storm.

It would be a mother wound, the poison

of a war that was their debt, and the loss

of so many lives. She was fragile form—

waiting there and never moved, her crimson

mouth still singing his song, stone-cold with moss.


The lithe seabirds fly and she stands there still,

her hands with long fingers to play the harp,

the fishermen with nets would harvest carp,

while she would strum trees on the cliffs with ill

winds that would whip and blow the rocky shore,

the women’s skirts would dance in coloured dress

refining tastes of men put to the test—

to love women like the sea, banish whores

from London streets, and taking daughters by

the hand to revel in the marriage 

of sea and land. These are of old, ancient

as sailor’s navigation had star-ties.

The bride and groom got into their carriage,

circling planets, ivory innocent.


The dark waves and depths were darker than land,

the moon was elegantly fair of face,

the stars stretched out their whitened Kenmare lace,

the green of Ireland waved its gloved hand.

The daffodil of Wales bowed iron head,

and England stood, a cathedral of stone,

with panes of stained glass through which the light shone

with anointing, this wine-like honeyed mead—

and touch of grace with healing in its wings.

The Great Black-backed Gulls flew up, and soared high

above the brine, the cool dank filmy air—

they lived scavenging, but their wise call rings

with a life of salt unmarked by the dye

of indigo-scarred sea, old and austere. 


What was this tree of time that grew on land—

each bark-wrought branch a son with brave courage—

to seek the light, and try to lessen scourge,

integrity to their last breath; and hands

that fashioned carpentry with saws and nail.

The art of wood was resurrected mast,

and homes of quality were handsome cast,

with furniture whose legend does not fail.

Their wives were cared for when they stayed on land,

but men had dreams that made their sea-eyes wild,

they dreamt of naval ports, of setting sail—

the Riviera beckoned the Captain:

foreign harbours, oriental silk mild,

sailing the coast when the wind would not fail.


Africa called to men in their sleep, dreams

made them listless and seeking adventure,

they left for their oceanic nurture,

of the power that moves men from the cream

of life, a wooden house with garden flow’rs—

for the life of violence and war’s red fruit, 

for the hard clasp of the guns, swords, and brutes.

Their ships would sail from emerald towers:

the waves oft the shore, the depths, the silver

fish, the harvest of the sea—liniment,

a sun-streaked weary sky would set each night,

oils of eucalyptus and lavender

were balm of kindness, green eyes, imminent

to regain their blue-streaked morning-tide light.


The sea has aged with the drawing of time;

it grows restless now and creation broods

far under the water, whales die in moods,

and struggle to reach the surface of crimes

against them and their habitat. Their breath

cries out into the open—we cry save

the whales, while English boats upon the wave

of the modern world laugh. The kelp tide’s death

crackles with green iridescence and salt,

once-food does not nourish us anymore,

we hunger for the minerals of sea—

but she is lost, dark-winged like the night’s cult

as our dry bones hit the ocean’s sand floor—

we scorn their value to humanity.  

—Emily Isaacson

Photo used by permission: Armstreet Clothing Company 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Requiem for a Solitary Unicorn

The song of a dying white unicorn—

he bowed his horn in meadow flowers spun,

and flee not the coming wrath, neither run.

From his brow unfurled the steeple, his horn.

There was a text of prophecy then borne

to earth within his vestal silver frame,

the word spoken from ancients was his name

and in a rustic stable, the child born. 

Rhema would guard his cherished golden head

and beams of light fell from his mercy eyes

to oft transcend the poverty of earth,

to feed the multitudes on coarse dark bread

and read the signs of the celestial skies.

To apprehend the curse, there is no curse.


What novice could hide herself in a cell

and know the living presence as a flame,

to walk by candlelight medieval lane;

to hearing ears, mystics’ chants and prayers fell.

Read the song again, this book is poem:

there is a repetition of its thread,

there is salvation in its bodice bred,

there is the hope of an eternal home.

Who built these stone walls of fierce workmanship?

Was there a foreman, mason on the site;

the very brick denotes his pay. Who paid?

Some man of bright wisdom or fine wealth, it

pleased him, such a great castle, where no blight

would devastate your cares and hopes, or raid.


No one can batter these walls, brokenness

is not the form of a healthy woman:

lexicon from the glance of sainthood wan,

the nuns protect her vows in eagerness

to win her favour. St. Clare is patron

of this fragile heart prepared for vastness

of a heather tundra, windy, restless;

there are dreams within the green eyes of sun

through the windows of the cathedral tall—

the light that falls on us in silken streams,

anointing of the green olive oil tree

in a lonely chapel, wooden and small,

that overcame death and decay for beams

of fluent light and laughter. Sit with me.


I sit on the bench. I am in the hall.

I travel in ions of turquoise hues;

I mesmerize my audience with blues,

melancholia sells tickets to all.

There is a long line of wealthy patrons

who want to buy their way into this world

of theatrical curtain calls and twirls

of lines, rehearsals, pinafore aprons.

We have our way of crossing the dark stage,

there's a rope holding the curtain, which sways

in midnight colour of deep navy blue.

Who stands in the shadows? Is she nymph, sage,

in darkness. Lighting the candle in ways

that are now spirit-led and keep us true.


Her head is high, she thinks and rises next,

speaking her lines to us like a sharp horn

that catapulted her into black thorns,

with a bright trumpet call to rouse the dead.

If the thistle of criticism had

not frightened her she would have been quite calm,

the tide of sea would sweep in as a balm—

salt, but her voice rose to a fevered mad

and obscene tone; it was a fearful deck

she had been dealt. The blackened Queen of Spades

gathered her powers, and regal, she spoke:

I am the land, the earth writhes, its slim neck,

reputation that would save from Hades.

Mock me not, for earth disappears as smoke.


We sought her favour like a drum that beats

its rueful pilgrimage to the stone heights

of mountains, with rocky canyons, and brights

of sunset upon dusk, the bard her teats,

and weaver spun this glory as a song.

Where the beat kept on, we gladly in line

followed the mother’s milky breast, a sign

of her truth, gold lion’s mane, and tail long.

When no real lion roars, then no one tastes

the soup and bread of her table, no one

believes she is just. Maybe they refuse

to eat what she prepared, in lower castes

of denial and want (they say I’m done); 

in homely ways the haggard beggars choose.

The well-fed are not eager, bones and skin, 

for the court of the prophets, where Rhema

bows the unicorn’s horn, dazzling schema

of the inner world. For you go within

to find peace from despair, and bow your head

in rest upon a Saviour’s breast. Molech’s

night of the star’s soul gives you no solace,

though you toss and turn upon your plaid bed.

The horn was righteous blessing on your day,

but you preferred the night of pallid fright,

who would prefer a nightmare to a dream?

The ship of your mind sailed into the bay—

a way to find unicorn’s linen-white

side or have her sew the lovely shell seam.

Emily Isaacson

Photo used by permission: Armstreet Clothing Company