THE MEMORY OF WATER
Indigo Dreams Publishing
£6.00 + P&P UK
PUB: July 2015
Abegail Morley is a Kent-based poet whose first collection, How to Pour Madness into a Teacup (Cinnamon 2009) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize Best First Collection (2010); the title poem was previously nominated for the Best Single Poem. Her collections, Snow Child (2011) and an ekphrastic collection based on the work of the German satirical painter, George Grosz, Eva and George: Sketches in Pen and Brush (2013) are published by Pindrop Press. The Skin Diary is forthcoming from Nine Arches Press (spring 2016).
She was nominated for the London Best New Poet Award 2010 and won the Cinnamon Press Poetry Collection Award and Best Single Poem and has been placed in a number of competitions including Agenda, Frogmore, Mslexia and The York Literary Festival and The Canterbury Festival.
She is currently Poet in Residence at Riverhill Himalayan Gardens in Kent, was Poetry Editor for The New Writer for four years, and regularly judges competitions.
She has collaborated with artists on a number of ekphrastic projects including working with the Royal Academy of Arts. She blogs at The Poetry Shed.
Cover and six photographs by Karen Dennison.
Karen Dennison is a poet and artist. Her poetry has been published in magazines and anthologies and her first collection, Counting Rain, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2012.
Karen has co-designed poetry collection book covers and is editor and publisher of the pamphlet Book of Sand. Her photographs/digital imagery have appeared in a number of exhibitions.
“With her restless and undaunted imagination, Abegail Morley has already given us three of the most original collections of poetry in recent years. Using the metaphor of water as the carrier of the whispers of history, The Memory of Water takes her ever deeper into her own distinctive world.”
"Inspired by a residency in Scotney Castle in Kent, famous for its Medieval moat, these poems bring vivid life to actual voices of the past - a Catholic priest hiding from Elizabeth’s agents, a smuggler disposing of his victim’s body, another murderer faking his own death by filling his coffin with stones – and counterpoints them with invented characters in a music as fluid as their watery medium. Karen Dennison’s shape-shifting photographs are a superb accompaniment to these startling and compelling poems."
“Like the photographer in one of the poems, Morley too holds history in her scope to create compelling compositions that hold the reader spellbound.”
“Scotney Castle is one of the most beautiful places in Kent, and Morley does her subject proud. Water runs through this book, just as history does – holding some secrets, letting others go and always giving us another chance. I gave up underlining favourite lines because there were so many, and just let these dazzling and delicate poems flow through me.”
When the hunter’s moon trails
a reflection on its wet backbone,
the moat stretches out its limbs
to the soft fringe of its banks,
feels the warm mud with its toes,
the chill wind ruffling its skin
with the same indifference.
The rubbed-smooth stones
offer themselves to the stars,
as they’ve done each night
of their lives. They’re weary,
no longer recognise their shape
in the quarried earth. Old eyes
not as sharp as they were.
Somewhere a gatekeeper
has forgotten how to sing.
The flutter in the trees
is not piped from his lips
but strewn in the air as time
nudges itself forward like
a lost thought recovered.
Water remembers its first body –
how he stumbled on rope-woven tree roots
while his eyes locked skywards
followed the twist and pull of owls hooting,
noticed how the whole sky was curdling,
could be something to grip on to.
So when he jumped, he reached out
like a child lifting its arms to a parent,
then more urgently as he felt branches rip away
until his hands touched the very air birds
used to call to each other. He felt their breath
on his fingers, their trill in his hair.
I watch the curvature of clouds,
see my dog’s face in them as he snatches
the ball I used to toss in Ferris Park, teeth
turned to the sun, a bird’s wing
flying from his gaping mouth.
I see useless things in clouds
like the bearing down chin
of my great-grandmother, that comes
with the smell of lilies and a half-full
vase of stale water.
Then those everyone sees, ghosts
in Cirrus with extended trailing skirts,
smiles in a vortex, hearts in contrails.
Apparently there’s a Cloud Appreciation Society
in Oxford – that’s always made me smile.
I hear a lawnmower proclaim summer
and in the curve of my elbow watch the fading
edges of mist, a small circle of light,
know we’ve trampled earth, eclipsed,
somehow rocked up here together.
The bread and wine is all but gone.
He crawls on knees, breeches blackened,
air urging itself through the hard-packed wall.
Bricklayers beat stone. He watches light
finger its way from the pitchy hall through cracks.
Time stalls. His face is a sundial, his terrified eyes
reflect the earth until shadowed by brick dust
they close as if they're the doused sun.
He thinks of planets – Jupiter, Mercury, Mars –
how far they are from the living, set on their own course,
eating from the hand of the universe. Rain startles,
gutters overfill, torches choke, searchers run ant-like
for cover. He rushes from his hideout, lunges
from the window with the force of winter’s north wind.
The memory of water
Nothing escapes water. It clutches its past, stores
everything that’s ever happened in its bulky weight,
reflects all it knows onto the underbellies of clouds,
clings to the old days when ice clenched its teeth.
Sometimes on gentle summer evenings when the moat
doesn’t know you’re there, its lapping ripples clear
their throats, let stories float from their tongues
like paper boats, rose petals in oil, feathers in air.
Water cannot lose its beginnings, memory crouches
in its black pockets. If you put your ear to its mouth
you hear the clang of bells, footsteps hurtling
across a bridge, the splash of a fall after leaping.