The Tail in the Sea.

The strange people who returned the tail to the sea
Knelt for a moment and dipped their opening hands
Into the water of life.
Its lapping at their palms, as the stripped carcass slipped
Slowly, swaying as a feather falls,
Into the deep sea of forgetfulness,
Was like soothing velvet whispering
All will be well, never fear, just let go
But tail fin and spine, rib bones sharp as a comb,
The water sighing, eddying through
Where life had been,
The dead glazed eye,
Mocked them.
“I am food for fishes now

You think it’s over,
You can put it behind you,
The feasting, satiation
Muscles flaking into moist mouthfuls.
One day you will find, pressed deep into the mud
On some high plateau, an attractive shape of bones
Tail and head with gills and an eye.
You will say I must have moved by flapping my tail
And breathed, though that is hard to conceive,
maybe through these openings. An eye,
but what’s to see so far beneath?
And you will also say
How did I live?”

And the strange people who returned the tail to the sea
Knelt for a moment and dipped their hands, blindly
Searching for a lost feeling, half known;
Dipped their opening hands
Into the water of life
But had forgotten how

© Jenny Campbell
On Penwith Peninsula

Eve took the apple
And with a shout
Stretched out across the land.
Rolling in wet grass
Her breasts, thighs, buttocks
Moulded the pliant earth.
She bit the fruit laughing
And spat the pips in all directions.
The earth rumbled in response
And sprouted a sea of colours.

© Jenny Campbell
Brendan’s Boat

From an uncertain shore of salty reed beds,
early boats push into the dark lap of water
for the long fishing. I take my turn at the oar, pulling
out into the first light, borne by inevitable streams
across the turbulent bar and into the ebb and flow;
traceries of bubbles, a mackerel sky, dawn dark,
and the hull beginning to creak
under the pull of the moon drawn sea
flashes of silver vanishing beneath curling green
tempt the voyagers of morning;
thin skin of sail straining heavenwards,
a jar of pitch in the bow, fresh water in a jug,
earth baked bread, and a salty tangle
of nets and lines astern

Out from the western edge of home, adrift,
salt hardened leather clings
to the ice blue world’s edge; melting
markers for a homewards glance shift
in slow glacial movement
pulling the earth out of true
not knowing where to or where from
what myths to come, what epic stories told
a moment’s calm beguiles the soul
with noonday sun; nourishment
slithers and gasps, dredged from beneath
the visible waters to an alien element.
Then Brendan’s boat slips from an icy haven,
lost beneath sheer white cliffs, a broken spar
on the unmapped ocean, pitched against
dark paradoxical tides and tossed without
longitude or latitude, in search
of a star guided heaven
a mystical landfall and temperate seas

© Jenny Campbell
January February March

tumbled brambles hoar and rimed
wasted grass nested with frost
rustle under foot a straw bed
this journey in a dead land
hedge bare looms from the mist
wiry branches aspire
catch a pale glimmer from a breach
in the sky cold

sheep’s head gapes strung
from a branch over a brown stream
eyes long gone
matted wool caught with shards of bone
shifting in the backwater
I will not drink downstream

up that dark valley boulder
by boulder quick flight of blackbird
in knotted oak old and hung
with lichen beards up through reeds
and surprising bogs to the water source
it’s already dusk where this stream descends
above a halo of gilded reeds
as the sun goes down behind the hill


visual trickery down the sheer bank
reeds and stunted tree silhouette
against a dark sky surface ruffled by
cat’s paw luminous with cloud
I fight against the headlong fall
watching the shelduck’s wake
a rippled vee fanning out
to the island


raven high in a sycamore tree
gruff calls mysterious syntax
a language of runes faint echo
in the cliff face
slow majestic flight by castle walls
I could reach out and touch
wide wings over picked bones
on the valley floor the hollow bones
of birds

© Jenny Campbell