for Sebastian Barry

Possible seals disappearing
far-out off Pembrokeshire,
sleek commas suddenly lost
in the sea’s murky prose,

came back to me (memories
taking a year to surface)
as we returned at midnight
from the Laird and Dog.

It was our daily goal,
two poets retreating
from a Writers’ Retreat
to beer’s bitter salve.

We’d walk out at twilight,
up a drive squeezed through firs,
shuttled over by crows
readying for the night

(or once, flung from their nests,
fissile, by a donkey’s blaring
Bronx roars through Midlothian
in fractured Trombonese)

and return, talking poetry
in the half-seas-over dark,
down the drive’s black on black
curving into deeper dark.

And from poetry, to language:
the world Flitched and hung up
in all the different words
in all the different tongues.

Beneath firs weighed by sleeping crows
seal was named in Gaelic:
madra na mara,
the dog of the sea

while the Welsh one waited,
forgotten and sunk
in the dictionary:
morlo, forlorn morlo

only remaining as an image,
greys glint-slicked on distance
and then reclaimed by the sea
bulking in from Ireland.

Seeing them dive again,
ripples bodied through water,
I wondered if they could hear
those unfathomable sounds

of our jukebox favourite,
‘Memphis, Tennessee’, when Chuck Berry
stretches a guitar-string to boom
solid echoes like whales courting.

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