Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Shipwreck Grave

They became unwilling sailors first and then, submariners,

These farmers and shopkeepers, their children, servants, wives,

All suddenly captives of the ocean, all lost in chains,

Buried beneath the sky, the sea, until the murky earth

Reclaimed them and grew fossils in a rib-shaped cage

Of rotting wood and iron and torn sails. They slept for centuries

Like fishermen decaying in too far-flung, careless nets,

Caught up by ankle or by throat, the salt upon them a preservative

So that today we find them, like the next page in a book-

-turned over in astonishment, a copperplate illusion

Of some smothered truth, mute heralds of the future

From a dim-lit past, such buried kisses, fuel for a candle flame

That flickers in the empty dark we rummage in for energy,

Like a faint light at the back of the deepest cave.

If they could speak, these souls might sing in unison:

Forget us at your peril, we are the last of the bravado

We are what remains, and if you hold a hand to us

We’ll surely burn you,


by one,

by name.

©  Helena Nolan

Ancient remains found in Dublin
Helena's work has appeared in anthologies and literary magazines including; The Stinging Fly, The Moth, and the Spoken Ink audio website. Last year she was runner-up in the Patrick Kavanagh Award.
Editor's note: Each day, we move about the land, but how often are we conscious of the layered history beneath our feet?