Des de Moor

Water of Europe Performance Poems 1996
In 1996 I did a number of gigs as a performance poet and have occassionally included poetry in my set since then.
Des de Moor

This is a piece about people on the move, the germs of which came to me on the ferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland. I'd originally intended it as the text of a long and complex song, but when work on that became bogged down I realised it might be more appropriate as a poem. It's one of the works of which I'm most proud, almost achieving what I originally conceived for it.
The old stay old forever
Under sunless skies
From the Old Kent Road to the river
Swaying from pavement cracks
Like stunted coppices still frozen
From Winter '61
When the snows came and the rains froze
And the puddles of Southwark pavements,
Solid as lids of coal bunkers,
Burned through the mittened hands of children
And harsh mists choked the creaking docks
In thick grey cloths of old tubercular scarves.
In dirty blanket snows
Scandinavian sailors strummed guitars with cold-fingered chords
Drifting in woodbine wastelands,
Greenland and Canada, Anchorage and Archangel.
Ghosts of the ancient navies shifted as shapes of ships in timber ponds,
All open hatch and empty stowage.

They set sail, they set sail,
Braving the stormy waters, braving the gale.
They set sail
Under skies thick with satellites, tracking the monsters,
Mapping the trail,
Tracing the lines of the hand
From Gondwanaland where the world began,
Braving the storms
As the land forms,
Setting the sail.

This land was half-drowned marshes
Till the Huguenots came,
Then the Flems set sail from Zeebrugge
To the slack mouth of the Thames
Draining the margins,
Laying the causeways
To the abbey of Normandy stone
Through meadows of reedbed, purple loosestrife, bristly oxtongue, great hairy willow herb, mallow, speedwell and morning birdsong.
Where once the breaking of amniotic waters
Left Rhine Maidens thirsty, high and dry
From dark, abandoned tumps
Beached hulks of slavers
And cattle trucks scored by fingernails,
They wail for Ganges and Gambia, Golem and Orisha, Solomon Pocohontas
From the land of creatures that screech to drown the sound of lullabies
The bellbuoys toll by abbey ruins

And we set sail, we set sail.
Nightly I knelt, you possessed me, sour-breathed and male.
We set sail,
Children of downs and deserts,
Children of Israel,
Sons of the Gael
Setting our sights from the sand
From Gondwanaland where the world began.
In calm and storm
Babies were born
Under the sail.

The waves carry the ship with the ebb tide
On the estuarine waters' flow
All eyes astern to the harbour shading
Into the smudge of sky
And the world reveals its roundness
As the horizon curves
Past Dartford, Stone, Swanscombe, Greenhithe, Northfleet and Gravesend
And the sea swells, and the land fades
As fragile as thin cracked ice on a puddle thawing
And the wide blue sky and the far horizon shrink us to timeless lives
Too slow to sense the change
And the waves sway, and the words fail,
And the days and the years creep by till we barely hear
The voice from the crowsnest crying

Land - land ahoy.
Land - land ahoy.
Land - land ahoy.
Land - land ahoy.

Written: Harwich-Hoek van Holland and Deptford, London, October 1994 and February and 15 June 1996

Des de Moor
© Copyright Des de Moor 1996


All rights reserved. No material on these pages can be reproduced in whole or in part in any form, except for short passages for the purpose of quotation or review, without prior written permission of the copyright owner.

 More lyrics
Animals Aren't Human
Lyrics Index