Blue Black

by Eleanor Rees

Blue Black

‘…coming ashore in the wilds of the Wirral,

whose wayward people both God and good men

have quite given up on…’

          Gawain and the Green Knight
          trans. Simon Armitage


‘The Norsemen left them in their well-nailed ships,

The sad survivors of the darts, on Dingesmere

Over the deep sea back they went to Dublin.’

          The Battle of Brunanburh


‘Yr wylan deg ar lanw, dioer

Unlliw ag eiry neu wenlloer,

Dilwch yw dy degwch di,

Darn fel haul, dyrnfol heli.

Ysgafn ar don eigion wyd,

Esgudfalch edn bysgodfwyd.

Yngo’r aud wrth yr angor

Lawlaw â mi, lili môr.

Llythr unwaith, llathr ei annwyd,

Lleian ym mrig llanw môr wyd.


Truly, fair seagull on the tide,

the colour of snow or the white moon,

your beauty is without blemish,

fragment like the sun, gauntlet of the salt.

You are light on the ocean wave,

swift, proud, fish-eating bird.

There you’d go by the anchor

hand in hand with me, sea lily.’

          The Seagull
          Dafydd ap Gwilym, trans. Hopwood



Before this I was a gull.


I flew from the city

over the blue-black estuary, along the shoreline

towards the abandoned lighthouse.

I flew through the wind-farm’s rotating blades.

I flew over the river’s rain-battered sheen,

sodium spots lined up into a pattern

of a peninsula’s edge, fairground-lit,

houses strung along the coast like lanterns,

 a black-railed prom stretching to distant

heavy mountains, marshland and flat fields

backing away from the sea wall, grazing cattle,

a long tarmacked path through trees

to the beach and submerged forest

off shore, deep in sand,

shimmering white transparent woods vatic in the waves


and with my gull’s eyes I watch from above,

from up here, on the air currents;

the children are two black dots

            running over the shingle from the dark night’s sea

towards a woman on her knees

in the moonlit sand, wide-opened arms

as if she is holding a towel on a summer’s day

though it is a December’s night. Is she me?

I look through her eyes to focus on the children.

A girl, a boy, naked, about six and three:

faces fuzzy around the edges,

                                   with hair and eyes but no definition,

they just keep running over the wet sand,

sea rough behind, outline of a container ship on the horizon.


I try to fly inland towards the ridge

but air currents push me back towards the edge.


I am kneeling, arms outstretched, squinting into darkness,

small pale bodies running towards me.


I am hovering over the shoreline, over the estuary,

children running over wet sand, a woman on her knees,


then she’s walking to dry land, shingle in her boots.

I follow her return towards glass-sharp dunes.


And she drives, her hands fixed on the wheel,

two empty seats in the back of the car,

shadow splashed on ripped upholstery,

seat-belts swinging, turning to the lights,

a three-eyed wolf at the edge of the track,

and the road ahead wet and sandy,

pitted with last week’s storm.

An easterly catches and I am among flooded fields,

webbed feet tacked onto moulding wood

as the vehicle rolls out of view 

to the cross-roads by the motorway.


I’m flung north,

each wing stretched into darkness

above a house with one light in the top floor window,

and there she is parking in the driveway,

closing metal gates on the semis across the street,

opening the front door, curtains full on cold glass.


I can see her unpacking a bag on a table, turning

on a radio, staring out of the gap

in brocade straight at me

here in the blue-blackening edges of the sky,

suited to this rain that starts again

and up and away

behind her, behind me into the curve of the land

about a mile beyond her home, car, fence,

and further out at sea

tide turns, a stone wall rises

from beneath green swell, marks out

a harbour wall, long smothered

by salt, where a ship is moored,

unloaded, a clinker low on fine water, well-nailed

           steam-bent oak and pegs, a carved

dragon’s head on its prow;

voluminous sea subsides to sand

then marsh, then earth, brown-furrowed mud

and chariot-tracks, mastheads clutter distance,

a barge steadies on the tidal flow.

Sunlight blasts the scene with coppery emulsion.


She closes floral curtains; waves filter detritus.

Drowned plastic bottles sink into coarse sand.

© Eleanor Rees, Extract from long poem 'Blue Black', Arne’s Progress