Poetry: Jos Smith

The Edge of Magic

Miranda has been walking to the west of the island,
to the storm beach knee-deep in plastic debris,

sun-bleached and weather-battered bottles, a crate,
frayed lengths of rope and polystyrene shapes:

packing, she thinks, for fish, or electrical goods.
She squats there as if it were a bed of flowers.

A burst blue football today, a wetsuit shoe,
a pale, pink bottle the shape of a woman’s body.

This is her secret. Low tide, the kissing waves.
Two cuckoos chuckle as they chase inland overhead.

It’s hard to tell what strings have been pulled
for her good life here on the island. She is starting

to distrust the weather, for example. Or flowers
like the purple-mouthed balsam by the streams,

the acres of tunnel in the rhododendrons
she used to play in as a child. All of them

under some loose enchantment, a father’s magic
in its twilight years, fraying at the island edges.

Ultima Thule

‘For who would ever have gone so near Heaven, and not ventured a little farther…?’ Daniel Defoe

On that cliff-edge plank of limestone they call
An Troigh Mhairbh, or the step that isn’t there,

faintly, on a fine day, you can almost hear the shouts
of those Phoenicians who just kept sailing north,

amazed as the days grew longer, thinking, perhaps,
their voyage blessed, this was the total light of the gods.

But on that fragile tongue of rock looking west
with the whole archipelago at your back, you’ll ask

who among them spoke up and suggested, hungry
and cold, they should set a course for home.

Jos Smith was born in Kent but now lives in Exeter, where he is researching a PhD on contemporary landscape writing. Much of his poetry emerges from a keen interest in hiking in the British Isles. He has had work published in The Rialto and Poetry Wales, and this year won the inaugural Earthlines essay prize.