Selected Poems chosen by kin’d & kin’d
Karen Smith’s ‘Journey to the map’ from Poemish of the Wildland
Journey to the map
before you cast out
to the place of not-knowing,
let the map find its way.
say goodbye to light,
unplug your eyes,
scrunch up ideas of pilgrimage
and throw them over
your shoulder, like salt.
lick a finger for the wind
for the page, for luck.
lay to rest the hummingbird
of your heart, the desire for
nights lit with birdsong.
study the growing crease
on your palm, where it meets
the ford in your elbow and tapers
to the inside, where your nose
can’t follow. trace back to
the source, the mouth, to what
you swear you hadn’t heard, or said,
except perhaps in the darkest time
where there was no star, no north,
no azimuth. a photograph appears
in your hand. it could be a clue to
the way forward, or back. lose a plot,
a hachure, a plat via the underside,
the backshore, where there are
no maps except the one you
can make, to get in or out
where you never meant to be
but you’re crossing the border now
where the cartographer is dead
and no land-lines have ever been
wrung from her wrist
and all the moves must be deducted
in advance, backwards from the centre
you’re steering on water to avoid,
engines in full reverse, watching from
the bridge. the trouble is
you can’t stop, especially
when you want to find yourself
abandoning yourself, and everything
is under water, even the map,
and all that you can do now is climb
and write it, write it, write it.
Recording by Karen Smith.
The loss of birds by Nan Craig
Of all the losses I think the loss of birds
has been the hardest. Strangest.
Whole days pass, now, as
I struggle to explain them to you.
I begin: they were very light.
Light as lizards made of
wire and buttons. But
covered in tiny leaves,
leaves softer than the softest fur.
Suspiciously, you say: Fur-leaves?
Exactly, I say. Their legs
were little sticks. Snapped twigs.
The small ones anyway. The biggest ones
had feet like grappling hooks.
Their arms were half-furled
umbrellas. Elbows on backwards.
Stretching, they became sails
snapping in high winds.
Covered in those silky scales –
fur-leaves, you repeat – yes, I say – which
lay flat like scales but ruffled
sometimes in the breeze, like fur.
Fur but not, I say, again and again.
Their bones were hollow and they moved
from ground to
air to sky to speck
faster than thought. They could not
be caught, I lie: they moved too fast
for human hands
They listened carefully to everything,
but had no ears. (what?
I really start to lose you here)
Their heads were round knobs
and one angry claw stuck out
the middle of their heads
for a mouth
and they ate through the claw.
Sometimes a yellow claw. Sometimes black.
Thinking of ducks, I add: Sometimes the claw was blunt
like a thumb. It could be blue. Or red. Also,
they birthed these little stones with goo
and flesh inside, that you could crack and eat.
You listen to me but I understand
you don’t believe me,
can’t believe me. How can you, I am raving,
nothing I say makes any sense.
They were everywhere, I insist. Everywhere.
You smile politely and begin to drift away.
WAIT! I shout. They also sang!
At that point, I go silent,
seeing as by now
I don’t even believe myself.
For more information about Nan Craig and her poetry, including recent publications, please visit : www.nancraig.com
River Adur, Knepp Wildland, 31 July 11.25 am – by kin’d & kin’d
bird hide above the young green reeds
skim slip un-deep water-shell
swans coming into land
swans bucketing and spread
screech of Canada geese
goose swan goose swan
honks gurgles peals barks getches
no time for breath in
cluck throat hatched
——(can air be thrown?)
making water path
tuft duck black
who wriggles by
who crosses species)
wing dips the shallows
becoming water-bird – one,
another, we go, we go – sense-forward
——through long water
Published in Coast to Coast to Coast, Poetry in Aldeburgh 2019.
Recorded by kin’d & kin’d