I am bound, rooted, salt-stung,
tree-limbed, iron bolted.
I live with my memories –
echoes of footsteps arriving,
departing; ghost boats
at my thighs.
Every timber part of me swims
with zooplankton. My only neighbour
is my reflection. The sky
is sailing around me.
Fenders of rock elm protect me.
My mouth is a softwood deck
of pitch pine.
I’ve been here so long
living out my days in this estuary.
I am locked in a blue room –
the summers of my childhood
pressing down on my skin;
I am up to my neck in tide.
The pier is a series of joined-at-the-hip bodies.
The pier is a timber tongue flying out of the Firth.
The pier is a woman on her back; fog-clouds –
bed-sheets, pulled up over her head.
When the pier opens her legs –
it’s a window to nowhere.
The pier drags her bladder-wrack
and dabber-lock body through spirals
of underwater currents.
When the tide falls the pier floats ashore
like a battered toy.
The pier is breaking apart.
Her legs are a row of piano keys
playing in A minor.
The pier is sun-aged and storm-scarred;
she has seen many departures.
The pier is an arch of hysteria
holding her secrets deep in the very girders.
The pier is tired – looking always across the Firth.
She sits in the shallows, among rocks,
her back bare – tubular spine, a hint of ribs.
She remembers the names of her Steamers:
Meg Merrilies, Jeanie Deans, Heather Bell.
At the end of her life
the pier has leapt off of herself
and is simply floating in the water.
We will always return to the pier –
she is our end point, our home.
Grey seals and bone whales
sing songs of her water logs,
salty in the brazen sun.
No Steamer comes to her now.
The shoreline is carved with the facade
of her wooden sisters –
the remnants of cast-off piers.
She is half-dressed in a shock of fronds
and bladders; she is barnacle-legged
She is our night constellation on the Firth;
our lifeline and lifetime satellite.
At the Opening of the New Pier, 1898.
She absorbs the sounds of the rabble
down to the very core of her timber bones.
Their voices preserved in the lichen
and limpet shells beginning their slow journey
of attachment around her plump new legs.
Voices to be held to the ears of children,
years after those voices have stilled.
You, on this new pier can never leave,
fade, never age, enter war. You
in the Glengarry bonnet, flat cap,
top hat, bowler, ribboned straw hat
present at the birth of a pier under bunting
and flag poles have become her story.
Abandoned woman of pleasure, daughter
of stillness – the end that comes to us all;
where are your people now?
*title from a drawing by Tracey Emin