Sundown. I imagine my father,
ten years dead, examining the lilied deep,
a whole marine community
on the move while the planet sleeps.
to graze on surface phytoplankton –
that smudge of green you hardly see
but it’s been busy all day
processing the energy of Sun –
followed by a host of arrow worms,
sea butterflies, comb jellies, larvae.
Other tenants of the dark
rise with them. Protozoa, copepods
and krill, a ragtag army
preyed on by larger predators still –
the bioluminescence brigade:
lantern-fish glowing cold
three hundred species
of dense-packed cephalopods;
following their own fixed upward gaze.
Now he sees torpedoes through the murk –
dolphins. sharks, oegopsida squid
with hooks on end of their tentacles
and, giant of the deep, the slow,
filter-feeding, eighteen-foot megamouth:
shadows, fighting the task of life in the under-dark
alone. But leading this spout of moon-milk
are the jellyfish. You think of them,
don’t you, as flotsam –
mammary and malign, drifting through waves
which toss them on the beach like mermaids.
But tonight they are the stars
flowering to surface in translucent
violet-rose: a million moons
of tangled crystal and tilted curlicues
of lace. A ghost flotilla
escaping when the manhole cover
is removed. Parachutes
blowing the wrong way,
lenticular galaxies, floaters in the retina,
with a whiplash trail of lambent fern.
This is the full mooch skyward,
bubbles of the soul, tendrils
of Old Man’s Beard
peeling off from the unconscious
the book of the sea shredding as it unfolds.
The whole procession white as aluminium –
this suits my dad, he is, after all, a ghost –
or white as the sun when it slips
behind a cloud. A convoy
of wraith-buskers, creeping from the Tube
like rebellions of the night. All hail,
O jellyfish, you ripple-fringe
of poisoned toga, blip from the cauldron
of nightmare, the unnamed
that is always there under the surface
and what we were always afraid of.
We didn’t know for sure but we suspected.
Then, at first light, the delicate descent begins
to a bed we only imagine – the floor
we never see, heaving crevices
and bubbled weed. The world is not all black
and all white. You are never safe.
Sundown. I imagine my father,
يعيش في: London, المملكة المتحدة
Ruth Padel, born in London in 1947, studied Classics at Oxford, Paris and Berlin, and has taught at many universities, including Ancient Greek at Oxford, Opera at Princeton, Myth in Buenos Aires, as well teaching horse-riding in Berlin.
In 1985 she left the academies to become a full time writer. Before becoming that, she lived for several years in Greece, worked as a Greek scholar and sung in an Istanbul nightclub. Music and performance were always major aspects to her life, from playing viola to choir-singing and music journalism.
She won the National Poetry Competition, discussed contemporary poetry each week in her column in the newspaper 'Independent on Sunday', and published two books about reading modern poetry, most recently The Poem and the Journey.
Other non-fiction includes I'm A Man, about rock music and Greek myth, and Tigers in Red Weather, a nature book and travel memoir about the years she spent searching for tigers in Asian jungles, and The Mara Crossing, a meditation on migration and immigration.
She was Chair of the Poetry Society from 2004 to 2006 and in 2009, for the Poetry Society’s Centenary, she is to be one of the judges of the National Poetry Competition.
Related to her ancestry, Padel is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Zoological Society of London, and wrote Darwin, A Life in Poems on her great great grandfather Charles Darwin.
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