Were you to praise my poems

from a kindness well rehearsed;

a studied politeness

or a judgement truly versed

and my lips no response betray,

no false modesty's shown

or indifference on display.

I'm looking at the phantom form

this poet turned away.

 

When twilight cried its droplets

in fitful, wayward showers

amidst an intense, dusky light

born when daylight sours,

the haunter, breathing came,

passing through my window,

in sighs calling my name

and in a glistening, showered spray

glowed like an ember flame.

 

Signalled by a branch

that tapped, tapped in the wind,

a face formed, lunar white;

its lips, with danger twinned,

invited me to touch with haste

as did those sockets, raven eyed;

those lips, so sinful, so chaste,

that mingled wine with ocean brine,

would drown me in their taste.

 

In scorn of my confinement,

the form bore me in its flow

so we journeyed to a land,

sea-girt, bathed in moonlit glow.

I watched the waves eddy, whirl

in restless, frothy motion

and protean shapes unfurl

their elongated fingers

in running rivulets of pearl.

 

As if of ocean's spirited kin

it weaved in motion on the strand,

accompanied by a siren song,

an arabesque, a saraband,

as though exclusively for me,

swaying, playing, touching,

buoyant as spirit made free;

a gentle being, a being wild,

it curved as a wave on the sea.

 

Deep down dark below the waves,

far deeper than any souls,

is where I'd see wonders

numberless as darting shoals

where wrecks on the seabed fray.

Come, be brave, follow there,

it called, beyond the reach of day,

deep down dark beneath the surf

where no sunbeams play,

 

to my palace below the billows

where amber brights the gloom

and hot, vented currents ply

through every floating room

and around each sea-soothed bed

angel fish grace and glide

above a floor in garnet red

inlaid with amethyst blue

on which you'll be fondant fed.

 

Enticed, I wandered out

through the spume, the foam,

drawn by that deep sunk,

enchanting, water home

but then pluck began to pale;

as my feet lifted, sands shifted,

and courage drowned her sail

so I froze in utter misery,

that spell a broken, abject fail.

 

The phantom urged, Poet, carry on

to the deep beyond the spit

but, shivering, I retreated,

losing, finally, my last sight of it;

downcast, only too aware,

standing on that blackened beach

that my poor earthenware

I'd never, never now exchange

for Oceana's fruit de mer.

Words: Wayne Carr

Photography: Lady In The Water, 1947 by Toni Frissell for Vanity Fair