Whitebeams and rock cress, speedwell and squill
think they’ve grown here for ever.
Only the stones remember
the webbing of sunlight and water
sharks silhouetted against the sky
fall open like books to share their story
show their collections of teeth and shells,
jostling corals and crinoids pressed like wild flowers.
They’re trying to warn us. The smell of salt is in the air,
coffined creeks and culverts stir
black water rising
this shiftless city lulled on dreams
the mud-bound boat under Stephen’s church
starting to drift
The fossil shells and corals indicate that the limestone of the Avon Gorge formed in shallow tropical seas in the Carboniferous, 350 million years ago. In 1470, workmen rebuilding St Stephen’s church in Bristol found the remains of a boat with a mast and a striped sail, dating from before the River Frome was diverted in 1248.
Deborah Harvey’s poems have been widely published in journals, e-journals and anthologies, and broadcast on Radio 4’s Poetry Please. Her poem Oystercatchers recently won first prize in the 2018 Plough Prize Short Poem competition.
She has three poetry collections – Communion (2011), Map Reading for Beginners (2014), and Breadcrumbs (2016) – published by Indigo Dreams Publishing, with henar fourth, The Shadow Factory, scheduled for summer 2019. Her historical novel, Dart, appeared under IDP’s Tamar Books imprint in 2013.
Deborah is co-director of The Leaping Word poetry consultancy.