The Roider

The Roider, a fish of an hundred and thirty elles in length, which hath no teeth. The flesh of it is very good meat, wholesome and toothsome. The fatte of it is good against many diseases.   (From description of Sea-Monsters on Oretelius’ Map of Iceland 1590, Akureyri Museum, Iceland)


A dark red H – I once knew the word -

on the black funnels of whaling ships.

I pray your flesh, dark, red, will cure me,

but I must have nil by mouth,


strung up, fed with liquids like the gulps of sea

that swooshed through  your baleen, a vast brush,

each cold, rubbery strand jammed tight,

trapping  thousands of micro-organisms


as once every sensation,  pulse of life,

thousands and thousands,  filtered through my brain.

How many remembered now?

Synapses firing. Fizzling.  Black-out.


Acrid smoke fluctuates, revealing

sunlit trees, as I walk through a wood

down to the beach holding my mother’s hand.


Who is the stranger who seems to know me

as she kisses my forehead? A young man

comes less often, and is impatient to be gone –


he seems familiar – one of my ship mates, perhaps -

who sniffs the kelp and salt on the wind

and hears, as I do,  the creak of the white seas.

Published in The Rialto, issue 91, Autumn, 2018.