In Geological Time, by Cork's poet laureate William Wall 

The latest of the poet's monthly takes on life in Cork was inspired by a sunny day in West Cork 
In Geological Time, by Cork's poet laureate William Wall 

William Wall, Cork's first Poet Laureate. Picture: Denis Minihane.

William Wall is a poet from Cork, and was recently appointed the city’s first Poet Laureate.

An initiative of the Munster Literature Centre that is funded by Cork City Council, Wall’s role will writing a poem every month for the next ten months, giving a personal response to issues in the city and county.

The Irish Examiner will publish these poems in the first week of every month, and the works will also be collected into a chapbook to be launched at next year’s Cork World Book Festival.

In Geological Time 

Galley Cove, July 2021

i
into a steely still sea
one bright and windless morning
every shell and stone
the kelp and sea-grass
luminous and hyper-real
like some new art form 

and thirty yards away
a big seal head breaks the glass
the huge dark eyes
assessing my ridiculous
progress through its element
with severity

these old worn bones
are free in the cold water
in every dimension
but I pray for a seal’s oiled skin
to glide through space
a seal’s big eyes to take the light in

ii
after fifty years of winter
we deserve a day like this
a blue dome over us
only the late rising moon to mark it

in the stony fields they’re making hay
like there’s no tomorrow
the good sweet smell
of childhood summers

my father breathing the seed head
walking the fields
his delighted disbelief
that weather and crop agree

on the full belly of a spring tide
the world is doubled
every thought and its reflection
balanced like an equation

but time is a falling tide
memory rising from the dark deep land
oarweed stones old broken bones
to trouble its going down

iii
from Dursey Island
to Youghal Bay
the vitreous sea
not so much as a cat’s paw
fin whales and dolphins
pass like shadows

this gull-speckled main
would be a sheet
of ice in winter
an iron fate
but for the Gulf Stream
due west of here
at the same latitude
the Strait of Belle Isle
Newfoundland
sea-iced half the year

all along this broken shore
the works of time and sea
a raised beach
a ruined tower
a fossil ammonite
a rock fall bleached white

we speak of dry land
and terra firma
but the ground
we stand on
is a phrenology of movement
the casual sinking and rising
the cracking and folding
the land is a wave train
a frontal system
a dialectic of surrender
and we are falling
into the high tide
in our own good time

our foothold is friable
our tenure uncertain
though all our imagery
of rock and stone
is of permanence
endurance
time will tell a new story
in which we will not be
the dramatis personae

iv
a hundred yards out
I am out of my depth
where I have always been
only the big sad eyes of the seal
to warn of danger

we are drowning on dry land
poisoning the world
with disease and noise
and toxic aerosols
and too much light

the microscopic clarity
of the undersea
feels more like home
slightly larger than life
a pardonable exaggeration

we came from here and lost our way
a few billion years ago
we are still lost today
though the sea fits like a second skin
and by the time I turn again

I’m no longer alone
the strand is dark with people
children greet me curiously
as I walk out of the sea
and back to humanity

More in this section

Scene & Heard
Newsletter

Music, film art, culture, books and more from Munster and beyond.......curated weekly by the Irish Examiner Arts Editor.

Sign up