Ancestral Chant of the Sea People

Photo by V. Billot. Port Chalmers and Sawyers Bay from Otago Peninsula.

Many steps brought us here.
We wandered, we strode,
we contained purpose within ourselves.
We halted, stopped at fen and bog,
fumid clouds hazing crooked walls
and coarse sea language spoken.
Northern islands clamped in thighs of fog
that grasped and held our septs
beneath umber cast of hills, soft ancient fields,
hard-tempered crust and crag.
Patched boards of grubbery, pale loam and stone
scratched and combed by our bent figures.
The wheels of time switched to straight lines,
the dewed moor surrendered to metal hammers.
On cavernous floors, capital swelled like fruit
as a sullen mass fought and bred, skin tanned by sweat.
We fled, were exiled, we left.
Trimming azure fields, deadly, distant coasts,
tracking the rim of silent lands.
A dotted line on a cartographer’s mirage,
we swung through storm and trenched in slough.
Our women sweltered in modesty. Our men’s beards itched
and we wondered of what our senses revealed.
We considered silently “where will we come to?
We are in the Lord’s hands.”
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3 thoughts on “Ancestral Chant of the Sea People

  1. I like this Victor – I feel it captures the resolve of those voyagers, their own historical time and place, their sense of being in the hands of fate, and something of the timelessness and ubiquity of their experience also.

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  2. “We fled, were exiled, we left” – that line is the turning point in your poem, isn’t it. Having first read this late last night I am now rereading in the morning with a pot of tea and my attention now focuses more on the experience of these travellers before they set sail, on the forces than drove them out. That context then gives greater emotional depth to their state of mind on the voyage itself, where the poem finishes, before they can reach their destination. It’s a good read. (Great photo over Otago harbour too!)

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