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[Poetry] Five poems by Suzanne Bailey

Montol Festival

Midwinter, lanterns shaped like ships and sails

Float up to Chapel Street with you in guise—

A stickman, masked, who marks the Mock and hoists

The papier-mâché seabirds in the frost

I see you light fire-beacons without fire

And misrule Penzance from a hidden craft

This candle dance is one I’ve seen before

Penglaz, the horse of bones, I’ve seen before

The sea has sent me something from that rock—

A handmade coat of ribbons, and a mask

The sea has never minded me before

The balance of this longest night has tipped

Your hands smudge chalk onto my skirt and hair

The moon regards my face without consent


Whatever of our lies, I lie with you

Beneath the table stone of Lanyon Quoit

Penzance lies hollow in the winter rain

And ocean water waters Jubilee

The megalith is cold and blocks the sky

I fold your hands and tuck away the guilt

We tie rags on the cloutie tree at night

To lie about the stars that didn’t shine

Each water mark marks water in my heart

And lies above Carn Euny where we stand

Or lie down in the passage and the mud

We lie in beds and grass and pools of salt

The Merry Maidens turned to stone for less

That tree lies down between us when we kiss


Please grab my hand when you fall off a cliff

I called you on the phone from Mousehole wharf

And hid stargazy pie behind the rocks—

These fish heads singing to the cloudy sky

Sink trawlers and their haul before the quay

You’ll find me dead at leisure where the sand

Has come apart and sifted into shapes

That look like creatures but aren’t creatures now

I wonder if the undertow has pulled

Horizons down beneath the sea at night

I have forgotten everything you said

But keep each word in this old amber jar

With fire and oil to shake in case of rain

Here’s something for your trouble in this world

The Brisons

Things will be better when you have stopped sleeping

You’ll haunt the dark coast dressed in white with a flame

Each night you are paler from grief and a blood loss

that soaks like old whale oil through cloth in your head

I’m happy you wrecked here—I know all your footfalls

This morning a wave swept the crew off the ledge

That rock is Great Brison, we stand in a marriage

I am Little Brison, I have never moved

Wrap up in your nightgown and wait in this cold fog

The Captain will fasten a rope round your waist

The deep sea will calm and you’ll die of exhaustion

What does it mean to have died of exhaustion

Davies remembers he forgot to save you

The sea was so rough that no boat could get close

Penberth Cove

I see you turn from shore to sea to shore

You grab my hand to skip the granite stones

To locate what is living in these words,

Lean closer without splintered wood between

The dogs pull on their leashes up the cliff

The owners let them off to lunge at birds

These floats and nets have scratched my foolish leg

Something you said last spring has scratched my leg

You move your hook and hand without the wood

This blistered paint feels smooth against my back

Some days your face has always been my face

To dive no matter what is bad advice

To never dive at all is bad advice

My mouth is always rougher

after storms

Suzanne Bailey lives in southern California with her husband and daughter. She holds an MFA in Fiction from the University of California at Riverside-Palm Desert and travels to Cornwall every summer she‘s able. She is a true introvert and spends most of her life under water.


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