On Candle Dyke



A place of uncertain balances,
a flood contained, levels barely held,
quiet seepages, the sweetness of decay,
slow flux of ends and of beginnings.
If there is flow here, it is imperceptible.
October evening, windless, the mute reeds
purple in sunset’s after-bleed.
A mist spills over Thurne levee,
silvers the drained marsh, cloaking
the rise and fall of secret hierarchies.


Downstream: the flicker of an eelman’s lamp,
and silence, fractured by his capstan pawl.
The long chain lifts, parting the waters.
He rides across, handing his low boat,
up-ends each diamond-netted snood,
fathoms the silver lode.
Shuffled by lamplight, his writhing
hoard, pin-eyed, serpentine, conjures,
even in captivity, long-forgotten fears,
way beyond our grasping.


Midnight: no noise of any kind,
then, through the lantern’s beam
like wandering spirits from another world
a silent frieze of more than twenty swans
glides out of darkness into dark again.
The drove leads down below the bank,
lower than water, reeds and fish; Atlantis
under stars, until a more insistent glow,
the intimation of a town on fire, gathers itself,
into the roundel of a harvest moon.




First Published in Other Poetry Magazine