when you pick it up,
is full of squirmy sea-larvae –
she doesn’t carry actual money,
but then she’s not an actual mermaid
(actuality not being
a possible attribute of mermaids).
Three times I crossed the equator –
by water, that is; flying doesn’t count.
The coloured surface is camouflage;
underneath is black; black and heaving.
Rats nest in the diver’s helmet.
Why, then they must be sea-rats.
So where do we go from here? Down, down,
where the eels go. Don’t wait for me –
I’ll be along later. Down, down –
think of me supping at mermaid’s milk
as you shrink into your philosophy.
The mermaid’s child will be a dogfish.
I’m saying to Meg and Alex
‘I came past your street this afternoon.
I wanted to visit you but you’re dead.’
And Meg is saying, in her sensible way,
‘Can’t be helped. Next time check up first’,
while Alex gives a sort of rueful smile
mouthing ‘Sorry!’ as if through a window
(I can’t hear him), and flinging his hands out
in apology, as when they met me
at Kathmandu airport in a thunderstorm:
‘Sorry about the rain!’
Sorry about the deaths. But let’s not start.
Anyway, now that we’ve established that
we can get on with the conversation.
I’ll show them the pictures I took
of Meg beside the two saplings
on a riverside walk in Stony Stratford
where we planted Alex’s ashes;
we used to visit the swans around there.
Alex will embark on a story
about spotting his hero Graham Greene
in the south of France, and trying
to pluck up courage…
I think I may have heard it before,
but I was never sure of the ending.
Bright specks of neverlastingness
float at me out of the blue air,
perhaps constructed by my retina
which these days constructs so much else,
or by the air itself, the limpid sky,
the sea drenched in its turquoise liquors
like the paua shells we used to pick up
seventy years ago, two bays
along from here, under the whale’s great jaw.
The ﬁrst election I can remember
is the one in which my father and mother
voted Winston Churchill out of ofﬁce,
and we got the National Health Service –
which gave me an exaggerated view
of what democracy can actually do.
‘Could I prevail upon you’, said Lorna,
‘to make me some more of that mayonnaise?’ –
with garlic, for dipping crudités in:
a small thank-you-for-having-me gesture
after my stay in her Newcastle house.
She had another guest on my last night.
He sat with us next morning at breakfast,
drinking his coffee as I stirred and whisked
and added this or that and whisked some more,
while Lorna made notes. He said there should be
a genre painting recording the scene
(this being in the days before Facebook)
in case the three of us became famous,
called ‘Roy Fisher watching Lorna Tracy
watching Fleur Adcock making mayonnaise.’
Quite soon he dropped me off at the station,
and drove to Durham for his assignment.
‘A most entertaining man, Roy’, I wrote
in my journal on the train going home,
‘with a nice line in pedantic phrases.’
He was fifty-two, which I then supposed
to be quite old, but as it came about
we had something like thirty-five years more,
on and off, to entertain each other
one way or the next, as our lives allowed.
11 The Mermaid’s Purse
12 Island Bay
13 The Teacher’s Wife
18 The Islands
19 A Bunch of Names
21 The Fur Line
22 A Feline Forage in Auckland
24 Peter’s Hat
25 A Small Correction
26 In the Cupboard
30 In the Cloud
33 Amazing Grace
35 Käthi Bowden in Bavaria
39 This Fountain
40 Magnolia Seed Pods
44 Novice Flyer
45 Wood Mice
47 Election 1945
48 The Little Theatre Club
49 The Other Christmas Poem
52 Victoria Road
53 To Stephenie at 11pm
54 Lightning Conductor
55 The Annual Party
57 Letting Them Know
60 The Old Road
POEMS FOR ROY
i.m. Roy Fisher, 1930-2017
63 Dead Poets’ Society
64 Jade Plant
65 Double Haiku
67 Four Poems and a Funeral
68 Maundy Thursday 2017
69 An April Bat
71 Annual Tribute
73 Winter Solstice
‘Informality and immediacy are vivid ways to remake a world; and Adcock’s style has not dated in the half-century since her debut.’ – Fiona Sampson, Guardian [on Glass Wings]
‘Fleur Adcock’s poetry is lauded for its composure and ease of delivery. Yet that sense of control…belies a more complicated history.’ – Julian Stannard, Times Literary Supplement
‘Fleur Adcock is as clear-eyed as always in a collection that ranges widely over lost worlds, family histories …but always maintains the art of seemingly artless observation.’ – Adam Newey, Guardian (Best Poetry of 2013) [on Glass Wings]
‘Adcock’s reputation has been founded on her spare, conversational poems, in which the style is deceptively simple, apparently translucent…those who see in such poems only flatness are missing the power of a voice which teases both reader and subject.’ – Jo Shapcott, Times Literary Supplement
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