Monday, October 15, 2007

Environmental Action Blog Day: Flood at Boscastle

Last week I signed up to the Blog Action Day campaign, where registered bloggers post something about the environment today, October 15th. Being busy as usual, I didn't feel able to work up some lengthy discussion about how I feel about the environment. But I am able to post up this poem, which came out of an environmental disaster that took place a few years ago, the devastating and wholly unexpected floods at Boscastle, Cornwall.

As a former resident of Boscastle - we moved the summer before the flood - whose teenage daughters both worked in the Spinning Wheel Restaurant, which was absolutely gutted and destroyed by the flood-waters, I was naturally keen to put something down on paper about the disaster. The poem below, 'Flood at Boscastle', is what emerged, and was published last year in the Poetry Society magazine, Poetry Review.

The small town of Boscastle is awash - if you'll pardon the expression - with shops connected to New Age spirituality, divination and witchcraft, possibly because of a long-standing connection between the village and the occult, and not least because of the presence of the world-famous Museum of Witchcraft, situated in the town along the river bank itself. So it seems a little ironic, in the light of these factors, that nobody saw this disaster coming!

My poem does not knock New Age spirituality per se, but it does, I feel, point out that some matters can still be adequately dealt with by using what some might refer to as 'natural magic', also known as common or folk lore, rather than all the expensive and overly-sophisticated paraphernalia associated with the modern craft.


Ten steps down, through Sargasso weeds
green as the felt walls
of a fish tank, is a door
through which only haruspices may pass, bearded
and with credit cards,
to buy sacred books
and strange instruments for scrying
so they might peer inside
the living heart
and say which house survives,
which doesn’t.

Portal invulnerable, they cry,
to the left-hand of the rising river,
thy charmed walls shall not be blowholes
for the unclenched well of the waters,
no spiraculum mirabile
breathing mud into the underworld.

Later, stripped to the waist, men dig
blackened books
from the whale ribs of a cottage,
then stamp up through mud
to the Cobweb
for a finger or two of whisky,
predicting more rain
on the print of a wetted thumb.

First published in Poetry Review

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