2006

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Text: Edwin Morgan
Duration: c. 6'
Male Choir
First performance Estonia Symphony Hall, Tallinn April 6
Estonian National Male Choir, conductor Kaspars Putnins

Note : Text of Silva Caledonia

Text of Silva Caledonia

The darkness deepens, and the woods are long.

We shall never see any stars. We thought

we heard a horn a while back, faintly brought

through barks and howls, the nearest to a song

you ever heard in these grey dripping glens.

But if there were hunters, we saw not one.

Are there bears? Mist. Wolves? Peat. Is there a sun?

Where are the eyes that should peer from those dens?

Marsh-lights, yes, mushroom-banks, leaf-mould, rank ferns,

and up above, a sense of wings, of flight,

of clattering, of calls through fog. Yet men,

going about invisible concerns,

are here, and our immoderate delight

waits to see them, and hear them speak, again.

 

Text: Edwin Morgan



First performance Estonia Symphony Hall, Tallinn April 6
Estonian National Male Choir, conductor Kaspars Putnins



First performance Estonia Symphony Hall, Tallinn April 6
Estonian National Male Choir, conductor Kaspars Putnins



Male Choir
Duration 4’
First performance Estonia Symphony Hall, Tallinn April 6
Estonian National Male Choir, conductor Kaspars Putnins

Note : Text of Lauda 31 "Ogn'om canti

Text of Lauda 31 "Ogn'om canti

Ogn'om canti novel canto a san Iovanni,            Let everyone sing a new song to Saint John,

aulente fiore.                                                   the fragrant flower.

 

O Iovanni, fresc'aurora,                                    O John, new dawn,

molt'eri garçone alora                                       you were just a humble servant-boy

quando Cristo cum gran cura                             when Christ with great care

apostolo te fece e pastore.                                made you his apostle and pastor.

 

Ogn'om canti novel canto a san Iovanni,            Let everyone sing a new song to Saint John,

aulente fiore.                                                   the fragrant flower.

 

O Giovanni amor dilecto,                                  O John, the beloved disciple,

Cristo a te se fece lecto                                    Christ made his bed with you

quando li dormist'in pecto                                when he slept in your arms

nella cena de l'amòre.                                      at the banquet of love.

 

Ogn'om canti novel canto a san Iovanni,            Let everyone sing a new song to Saint John,

aulente fiore.                                                   the fragrant flower.

 

La verità questo dice:                                       The truth speaks thus:

la sua madre, tu' la fece;                                  his own mother he made yours;

a lie' te lassò'n sua vece                                   he left you to care for her in his place,

en sulla cena de la morte.                                 even at the banquet of death.

 

Ogn'om canti novel canto a san Iovanni,            Let everyone sing a new song to Saint John,

aulente fiore.                                                   the fragrant flower.



Male Choir
Duration 4’
First performance Estonia Symphony Hall, Tallinn April 6
Estonian National Male Choir, conductor Kaspars Putnins

Note : Text of Lauda 32 "Omne homo"

Text of Lauda 32 "Omne homo"

Omne homo ad alta voce             Let all mankind with loud voice

laudi la verace croce.                   praise the true cross.

 

Quanto è digna da laudare,          How worthy it is of praise

core no lo pò pensare,                  no heart can imagine,

lengua non lo pò contare,             no tongue can recite:

la verace sancta croce.                 the true, holy cross.

 

Omne homo ad alta voce              Let all mankind with loud voice

laudi la verace croce.                    praise the true cross.

 

La sua madre cum dolore              His own mother with grief

kiama e dice: "Dolçe amore,          called out and said: "Sweet love,

oimè, fillio e signore,                     alas, my Son and Lord,

perké fosti posto in cruce?"            why were you hung on the cross?"

 

Omne homo ad alta voce                Let all mankind with loud voice

laudi la verace croce.                      praise the true cross.

 

Dice Cristo: "O madre mia,             Christ replied: "O my mother,

quest' è l'obediença mia:                this is my act of obedience:

ke se compia in questa dia             on this day

k'io moia nella croce."                    I must die upon the cross."

 

Omne homo ad alta voce                Let all mankind with loud voice

laudi la verace croce.                      praise the true cross.



2 sopranos, counter tenor, tenor, bass (SSATB)
Duration 4’
First performance Uncloistered, York

Note : Text of Lauda 33 Spirito sancto

Text of Lauda 33 Spirito sancto

Spirito sancto glorioso,            Glorious holy Spirit,

sovra noi sia gratioso.              be gracious to us.

 

Ké con gran dolçore venisti,    You, who came with great sweetness,

La Pentecoste tu conpisti;        achieved the miracle of Pentecost;

Li discipuli rinpisti                   the disciples were filled

del tuo amore gaudioso.           with your joy-giving love.

 

Spirito sancto glorioso,            Glorious holy Spirit,

sovra noi sia gratioso.              be gracious to us.

 

Tu, dolçore cum dolçeça,         You are sweet with sweetness,

tu, soave cum piageça,             you are gentle with tenderness,

tu potente per forteça,              you are powerful with strength,

come Signor ponderoso.          as mighty as the Lord.

 

Spirito sancto glorioso,            Glorious holy Spirit,

sovra noi sia gratioso.              be gracious to us.

 

Garço dè la gran sperança        Garço [the poet] puts his utmost hope

a te, Cristo, per pietança;          in you, O Christ, through holiness;

tu n'ai facti a tua sembiança,    you have made him in your image,

prego ke ne dea riposo.            and I pray that you will give him rest.

 

Spirito sancto glorioso,            Glorious holy Spirit,

sovra noi sia gratioso.              be gracious to us.

 

Selene Mills

16 April 2008



nos. 1, 8 and 9 first perf. Anna Maria Friman, John Potter, GB Ensemble
Great Hall Dartington, Devon April 26
Complete performance Glenn Gould Studio, CBC Toronto
Duration 30’
March 6th 2007

Note : Nine Irish Madrigals (Adapted from 3rd book of Madrigals)

Nine Irish Madrigals (Adapted from 3rd book of Madrigals)

(for soprano, tenor, viola, bass clarinet and double  bass)

Hire Only

1. Laura being dead, Petrarch finds trouble in all the things of the earth

2. Laura is ever present to him

3. He recalls his visions of her

4. He ceases to speak of her graces and her virtues which are no more

5. He considers the reasons for his verses

6. The fine time of the year increases Petrarch's sorrow

7. The sight of Laura's house reminds him of the great happiness he has lost.

8. He sends his rhymes to the tomb of Laura to pray her to call him to her (tenor solo)

9. Only he who mourns her and Heaven that possesses her knew her while she lived (tenor solo)

Note : Text of Nine Irish Madrigals

Text of Nine Irish Madrigals

1. Laura being dead, Petrarch finds trouble in all the things of the earth

2. Laura is ever present to him 

3. He recalls his visions of her

4. He ceases to speak of her graces and her virtues which are no more

5. He considers the reasons for his verses

6. The fine time of the year increases Petrarch's sorrow

7. The sight of Laura's house reminds him of the great happiness he has lost

8. He sends his rhymes to the tomb of Laura to pray her to call him to her

9. Only he who mourns her and heaven that possesses her knew her while she lived

 

Like the Eight Irish Madrigals these Nine Irish Madrigals, also for soprano and tenor, but with a different accompaniment, come from my Third Book of Madrigals - which is for three voices and lute.

These all set sonnets by Petrarch in the remarkable Irish prose translations by John Millington Synge. I came across Synge's Petrarch poems in the University of Victoria library, part of a remarkable Synge collection. They were edited by one of Canada's greatest poets Robin Skelton, who died in 1997 and to whose memory these madrigals are dedicated.

Although Synge first became interested in Petrarch when he visited Italy in 1896 it was not until early 1907, after he had met the American poetess Agnes Tobin and read her translations, that he began to work on his own versions. Part of his intention was to translate love poetry into English but they also served as an exercise in writing prose poetry of the kind he could use in his last play Deirdre of the Sorrows, which he wrote in parallel with the Petrarch translations. Both the play and the translations were incomplete at the time of his death in March 1909.

Petrarch's sonnets are traditionally divided into two collections: in vita di Madonna Laura and in morte di Madonna Laura, and Synge's settings are from the second group. During the time that he was writing them he became aware that he did not have long to live and the opening lines of the first poem show this: "Life is flying from me, not stopping an hour".

Only eight translations from Petrarch appeared in the edition of Synge's Poems and Translations published two weeks after his death and each was given a title in imitation of Petrarch. When four more were added in the Collected Works in 1910 more were included and four of these had titles in a different hand than Synge's. Robin Skelton added titles to five more in his 1961 edition of Synge's translations.

I am grateful to Robin Skelton's family for allowing me to include these titles.

(Gavin Bryars)

 

1. Laura being dead, Petrarch finds trouble in all the things of the earth

Life is flying from me, not stopping an hour, and Death is making great strides following my track.  The days about me and the days passed over me, are bringing me desolation, and the days to come will be the same surely.

All things that I am bearing in mind, and all things I am dread of, are keeping me in troubles, in this way one time, in that way another time, so that if I wasn't taking pity on my own self it's long ago I'd have given up my life.

If my dark heart has any sweet thing it is turned away from me, and then farther off I see the great winds where I must be sailing.  I see my good luck far away in the harbour, but my steersman is tired out, and the masts and the ropes on them are broken, and the beautiful lights where I would be always looking are quenched.

 

2. Laura is ever present to him

If the birds are making lamentation, or the green banks are moved by a little wind of summer, or you can hear the waters making a stir by the shores that are green and flowery.

That's where I do be stretched out thinking of love, writing my songs, and herself that Heaven shows me though hidden in the earth I set my eyes on, and hear the way that she feels my sighs and makes an answer to me.

'Alas,' I hear her say, 'why are you using yourself up before the time is come, and pouring out a stream of tears so sad and doleful?

'You'd do right to be glad rather, for in dying I won days that have no ending, and when you saw me shutting up my eyes I was opening them on the light that is eternal.'

  

3. He recalls his visions of her

How many times, running away from all people and from myself if I was able, I go out to my little nook, with my two eyes crying tears on my breast and on the grass under me, and breaking the air with the great sighs I do be giving.

How many times, and I heavy with sorrow, I have stretched out in shady places and woods, seeking always in my thoughts for herself that death has taken from me, and calling out to her one time and again that she might come.  Then in some form of a high goddess I see her rising up out of the clearest pool of the Sorga, my sweet river, and putting herself to sit upon the bank.

Or other days I have seen her on the fresh grass and she picking flowers like a living lady, yet showing me in her look she has a pity for myself.

 

4. He ceases to speak of her graces and her virtues which are no more

The eyes that I would be talking of so warmly, and the arms, and the hands, and the feet, and the face, that are after calling me away from myself and making me a lonesome man among all people.

The hair that was of shining gold, and brightness of the smile that was the like of an angel's surely, and was making a paradise of the earth, are turned to a little dust that knows nothing at all.

And yet I myself am living; it is for this I am making a complaint, to be left without the light I had such a great love for, in good fortune and bad, and this will be the end of my songs of love, for the vein where I had cleverness is dried up, and everything I have is turned to complaint only.

 

5. He considers the reasons for his verses

If I had thought that the voice of my grief would have a value I would have made a greater number surely of my first sorrow and in a finer manner: but she who made me speak them out and who stood in the summit of my thoughts is dead at this time, and I am not able to make these rough verses sweet or clear.

And in surety those times all I was wishing was to ease my sad heart in any way I was able and not to gain an honour for myself, and it was weep I was seeking and not the honour men might win of it, and now it is the one pleasure I am seeking that she would call to me and I silent and tired out.

 

6. The fine time of the year increases Petrarch's sorrow

The south wind is coming back, bringing the fine season, and the flowers, and the grass, her sweet family, along with her. The swallow and the nightingale are making a stir, and the spring is turning white and red in every place.

            There is a cheerful look on the meadows, and peace in the sky, and the sun is well pleased, I'm thinking, looking downward, and the air and the waters and the earth herself are full of love, and every beast is turning back looking for its mate.

            And what a coming to me is great sighing and trouble, which herself is drawing out of my deep heart, herself that has taken the key of it up to Heaven.

            And it is this way I am, that the singing birds, and the flowers of the earth, and the sweet ladies, with the grace and comeliness, are the like of a desert to me, and wild beasts astray in it.

 

7. The sight of Laura's house reminds him of the great happiness he has lost

Os this nest in which my Phoenix put on her feathers of gold and purple, my Phoenix that did hold me under her wing and she drawing out sweet words and sighs from me? Oh, root of my sweet misery, where is that beautiful face, where light would be shining out, the face that did keep my heart like a flame burning? She was without a match upon the earth, I hear them say, and now she is happy in the Heavens.

            And she has left me after her dejected and lonesome, turning back all times to the place I do be making much of for her sake only, and I seeing the night on the little hills where she took her last flight up into the Heavens, and where one time her eyes would make sunshine and it night itself.

 

8. He sends his rhymes to the tomb of Laura to pray her to call him to her

Let you go down, sorrowful rhymes, to the hard rock is covering my dear treasure, and then let you call out till herself that is in the heavens will make answer, though her dead body is lying in a shady place.

            Let you say to her that it is tired out I am with being alive, with steering in bad seas, but I am going after her step by step, gathering up what she let fall behind her.

            It is of her only I do be thinking, and she living and dead, and now I have made her with my songs so that the whole world may know her, and give her the love that is her due.

            May it please her to be ready for my own passage that is getting near: may she be there to meet me, herself in the Heavens, that she may call me, and draw me after her.

 

9. Only he who mourns her and Heaven that possesses her knew her while she lived

Ah, Death, it is you that have left the world cold and shady, with no sun over it. It's you have left Love without eyes or arms to him, you've left liveliness stripped, and beauty without a shape to her, and all courtesy in chains, and honesty thrown down into a hole. I am making lamentation alone, though it isn't myself only has a cause to be crying out; since you, Death, have crushed the first seed of goodness in the whole world, and with it gone what place will we find a second?

            The air and the earth and the seas would have a good right to be crying out - and they pitying the race of men that is left without herself, like a meadow without flowers, or a ring robbed of jewellery.

            The world didn't know her the time she was in it, but I myself knew her - and I left now to be weeping in this place; and the Heavens knew her, the Heavens that are giving an ear this day to my crying out.



Choir (SSAATTBB)
First performance, St Mary's Church, Ealing, London, 31 March 2007
The Addison Singers, cond. David Wordsworth



First performance Sentieri Selvaggi, Milan June 2006
Duration c. 15'
flute, clarinet, vibraphone, piano, violin, cello



First performance Gary Karr, Harmon Lewis, Basses Loaded
cond. Sarah Klein
Philip T Young Recital Hall, UVic, Canada



First performance Gary Karr, Basses Loaded
cond. Sarah Klein
Philip T Young Recital Hall, UVic, Canada



Ded. Steve Reich at 70
Text: George Bruce
Duration c. 20'
Four voices (S, A T Bar), string quartet, optional improvising turntablist
First performance: Theatre of Voices, dir Paul Hillier, Kronos Quartet, Philip Jeck
Barbican Theatre, November 2006

Note : The Stones of the Arch (2006)

The Stones of the Arch (2006)

for four voices and string quartet

This piece for two quartets - one of voices, one of strings - was commissioned by the Barbican Centre for its festival celebrating Steve Reich's 70th birthday. The instrumentation came about because of the practical concern to use players who were already involved in the festival (who also happened to be known to me personally). The choice of text however, as for any vocal work, was most critical. I decided not to use the Old Testament, which might have been a more obvious source - although I have set various Psalms, lines from Proverbs and parts of Genesis. Instead I chose two poems by the Scottish poet George Bruce, whose work I discovered when setting sonnets by Edwin Morgan.  Here the second poem, The Stones of the Arch written in 2000 when the poet was approaching his ninetieth birthday, is a "reconsideration" of the first, A Gateway to the Sea, from fifty years earlier. It was George Bruce's idea of working on something from the past by creating something new, rather than re-write or edit, that I found particularly attractive, especially as the poems are so different.

In the music I also sought to avoid any direct reference to Steve's work, although there are a couple of figures in the cello that could be seen as allusive, and the piece clearly does involve some repetition. I preferred to acknowledge, rather, the fact that neither Steve nor I are constrained by our past work but, at the same time, are inevitably conditioned by it to some extent. The two poems make up the two parts of the piece, which is played without a break.

There is an optional part for a solo improviser working ideally with simple live electronics. My choice for the first performance was Philip Jeck, who works with  vinyl records on old gramophone turntables and with whom I had worked on a performance of The Sinking of the Titanic in Venice. The improvisation starts before the score proper and overlaps the opening section up to the first vocal entry. Thereafter he is free to play at any time but is more prominent in the interlude between the two poems, and at the end.

The piece is dedicated to Steve Reich.

© Gavin Bryars

Note : A Gateway to the Sea (1)

A Gateway to the Sea (1)

At the East Port, St Andrews

Pause stranger at the porch: nothing beyond

This framing arch of stone, but scattered rocks

And sea and these on the low beach

Original to the cataclysm and the dark.

 

Once one man bent to the stone, another

Dropped the measuring line, a third and fourth

Together lifted and positioned the dressed stone

Making wall and arch; yet others

Settled the iron doors on squawking hinge

To shut without the querulous seas and men.

Order and virtue and love (they say)

Dwelt in the town - but that was long ago.

Then the stranger at the gate, the merchants,

Missioners, the blind beggar with the dog,

The miscellaneous vendors (duly inspected)

Were welcome within the wall that held from sight

The water's brawl. All that was long ago.

Now the iron doors are down to dust,

But the stumps of hinge remain. The arch

Opens to the element - the stones dented

And stained to green and purple and rust.

 

Pigeons settle on the top. Stranger,

On this winter afternoon pause at the porch,

For the dark land beyond stretches

To the unapproachable element; bright

As night falls and with the allurement of peace,

Concealing under the bland feature, possession.

Not all the agitations of the world

Articulate the ultimate question as do these waters

Confining the memorable and the forgotten;

Relics, records, furtive occasions - Caesar's politics

And he who was drunk last night:

Rings, diamants, snuff boxes, warships,

Also the less worthy garments of worthy men.

 

Prefer then this handled stone, now ruined

While the sea mists wind about the arch.

The afternoon dwindles, night concludes,

The stone is damp unyielding to the touch,

But crumbling in the strain and stress

Of the years: the years winding about the arch,

Settling in the holes and crevices, moulding.

The dressed stone. Once one man bent to it,

Another dropped the measuring line, a third

And fourth positioned to make wall and arch

Theirs. Pause stranger at this small town's edge -

The European sun knew those streets

O Jesu parvule; Christus Victus, Christus Victor,

The bells singing from their towers, the waters

Whispering to the waters, the air tolling

To the air - the faith, the faith, the faith.

 

All this was long ago. The lights

Are out, the town is sunk in sleep.

The boats rocking at the pier,

The vague winds beat about the streets -

Choir and altar and chancel are gone.

Under the touch the guardian stone remains

Holding memory, reproving desire, securing hope

In the stop of water, in the lull of night

Before dawn kindles a new day.

 

Note : The Stones of the Arch

The Stones of the Arch

A reconsideration of the poem 'A Gateway to the Sea' (1950)

 

Once, I thought, once these stones are named,

cut, dressed given their place, one upon one

to form the arch of grey sandstone (now sable)

that they had entered into a compact with man -

they were on our side, accomplices in our order

accepting the verdict of human history,

as if they never were what once they had been,

nor would return to that incomprehensible no-time,

whose time we cannot tell or keep, nor measure

by the pulse. It is pretence to count light years.

Without consciousness they make no light,

no sound in their passage. Words cannot reach them.

Whose Word is theirs? What logic do they promulgate?

When all the words are burst and the silver stars

are stones and the stones dissolve to dust,

as is our dissolution, and we have no time to keep

and the knowledge to which we should aspire,

abdicating the self, is that we know nothing.

The stone face of this arch deceives.

It does not belong to us. It belongs

to the wildness of the air and water,

to that other where there is no word for love.

Let us then unlabel these stones.

Let the sea swallow them.

Let them be with that other universe

where no time is kept.

In the transparent moment of unknowing

will we be entered by the other,

or will the other receive us?

George Bruce



Ded. Audrey Riley
Solo cello
First performance Spain



soprano, mezzo, 2 pianos, 6 percussion
Duration 70’
First performance Theatre Cryptic, dir. Cathie Boyd
Angela Tunstall, soprano; Alexander Gibson, mezzo
Paragon Ensemble cond. Garry Walker
Tramway, Glasgow November 2

Note : Text of The Paper Nautilus

Text of The Paper Nautilus

I

La Science (Marie Curie)

Je suis de ceux qui pensent que la Science a une grande beauté. Un savant dans son laboratoire n'est pas seulement un technicien, c'est aussi un enfant placé en face de phénomènes naturels qui l'impressionnent comme un conte de fées. Nous ne devons pas laisser croire que tout progrès scientifique se réduit à des mécanismes, des machines, des engrenages qui d'ailleurs ont leur beauté propre. Je ne crois pas non plus que dans notre monde l'esprit d'aventure risque de disparaitre. Si je vois autour de moi quelquechose de vital, c'est précisement cet esprit qui parait indéracinable et s'apparente à la curiosité.

 

II

La Reine de la mer (Etel Adnan)

La mer bouge dans nos lèvres

Et s'élève comme murailles dans nos yeux.

Le vent dérange nos cheveux

Pour en faire piques et épines

Le voici comme une paume sur l'échine

Apaisé des eaux

L'éternité court sur la matière fluide

Ni mouvement ni essence

Mais le visage lavé et délavé de la mer.

 

Je suis exposé à la nudité de la lumière

Et abandonnée à la lèvre multiple de la mer

Je suis liquide, élément liquide

La terre ses volcans, ses ravines, sa colère.

Je suis ses torrents et sa vase

Et son limon et son printemps

Liquide, élément liquide,

Je suis la mer et unie à la mer.

Liquide, liquide, élément liquide.

Je suis la mer et la Reine de la mer.

 

III

Ars Photographica (Pope Leo XIII)

Expressa solis spiculo

Nitens imago, quam bene frontis deus,

Vim luminum refers,

Et oris gratiam imagine.

O mira virtus ingeni

Novumque monstrum

Imaginem Naturae Apelles

Apelles Aemulus

Non pulchriorem pingeret

Expressa nolis, expressa solis spiculo Naturae

Expressa, expressa solis quam bene prontis

Novumque monstrum refers

Nitens imago quam bene frontis deus

Vim luminum O mira gratiam

Expressa solis spiculo

Mira virtus ingeni novum

Et oris gratiam

Mira oris gratiam

  

IV

De profundis maris (Vulgate)

quam magnificata sunt opera tua Domine

omnia in sapientia fecisti

impleta est terra possessione tua

 

hoc mare magnum et spatiosum minibus:

illic reptilia quorum non est numerus

animalia pusilla cum magnis.

 

tu dominaris potestatis maris

motum autem fluctuum eius tu mitigas

 

gyrat per meridiem et flectitur ad aquilonem

lustrans universa circuitu pergit spirtitus et in circulos suos regriditur

 

omnia flumina intrant mare et mare non redundant

ad locum unde exeunt flumina revertuntur ut iterum fluant

 

dixit Dominus de Basan convertam convertam de profundis maris

  

V

The sea mysteries (Jackie Kay)

Like an oyster hides its pearl,

The sea hides its wonder world.

 

Like a mermaid flicks her tail,

The sea is real and surreal.

 

Like the heart of the angler fish,

The sea's heart beats in the dead of night,

 

The sonar's echo of lovers dead and lost,

All the lonely people - lost at sea.

 

the haunting music of the deep dark sea.

 

***

 

All around the wide world,

the sea speaks in many tongues.

 

In many skins, the sea repeats its lines.

With wide, tide arms, the sea keeps time.

 

In the great treasure chest below

Are the sea special gifts:

 

Lantern fish, bristlemouths, hatchetfish,

Plankton, krill, shrimps, copepods, squid.

 

Pink eggs, razor sharp teeth, transparent shells.

Triple wart sea devil, common black devil fish.

 

As if the sea imagined its creatures,

dragging the ocean for inspiration,

 

As if the sea drew a rough sketch,

Then coloured them in:

 

Black and red creatures of the dark zone.

Fish that flash, fish that turn themselves inside out.

 

Out of the vivid imagination of the sea,

Crawled the wild and the wonderful,

 

The gulper eel, the vampire squid from hell,

the kind and the savage, the beautiful and the ugly,

 

The saints and the martyrs,

The myths and the workers.

 

Nothing could ever surprise the sea.

The sea is you. The sea is me.

 

***

Like an oyster hides its pearl,

The sea hides its wonder world.

 

Like the heart of the angler fish,

The sea's heart beats in the dead of night,

 

The sonar's echo of lovers dead and lost:

 

the haunting music of the deep dark sea.

 

 

VI

Where there is light (Jackie Kay)

You hold the world's fishing

boats in your large hands.

The nets and the hoops

and the hooks and the loops.

You  offer up your silver fish,

your  secret shells, your stones.

And sometimes you take something back,

a child or a man or a woman.

 

You let a little useless light in,

not very far down,

Where small red plants grow deep

in you, small flames,

And see-through see creatures

sweep through  you,

And occasionally you are lit up

by very fierce colour.

 

Deeper down, deeper down again

Where it is colder

(so much colder, really very cold!)

Where plants don't grow

in you any more.

Down, where you are older,

where there is more pressure,

where things are fiercer, crueller.

 

Down, past the  little

lightness into the dark.

Down, into the deeper dark,

into the colder dark

Down in the depths of despair,

where it seems

nothing could ever get better or fairer

where no one cares who you might have been.

 

Down, now in the complete dark

Where luminous fish swim through you

And large journeys begin in you

Where it all that  matters

Is to see and not be seen.

Where the desire is to be invisible,

For the rocks at the bottom

To hold and caress; you make your bed.

 

You make your big bed.

 

VII

Vertical migration (Jackie Kay)

When the moon's behind clouds

And the light is dim,

You rise up.


When the moon is full

You can't risk being seen,

You go down.


Even the moonlight is dangerous


When the light is up

You hide your face,

Your big eyes.


When the moon has gone

And the sun comes out

You go down


Under the cover of darkness


To the roomy gloom

Where you are at home -

Away from the border.


Every night, this same story

You risk your life

Going up and coming down



Don't come too close to the surface.      


Out of the gloom,

back to the gloom

waiting for the night to come


Every night you go out

Looking for the ones who are looking for you.

Oh, do any of us understand


Even the moonlight is dangerous


What it is like to be you in this fierce land.

Always on the move, always full of fear

Travelling in the dead of night.


For the migrant is never truly safe.

The migrant has to hide her face.

The migrant has to skulk around



Under the cover of darkness


When everybody is sleeping;

When the moon is sleeping,

Behind thick clouds,


You go down.

You go down, down, down.

Nothing ever changes.


Under the cover of darkness

Don't come too close to the surface.

Even the moonlight is dangerous.

 

VIII

The Angler's Song (Jackie Kay)

Down where I am, my love, there is no love.

There is no light, no break of day, no rising sun.

Where I am, I call you in; I open my large mouth.

The only light down here comes from my body.

 

Down where I am is deeper than you imagine.

There is no food, no easy prey, and it is freezing cold.

I sing to make you say my name. My big eyes weep.

This is the world of never ending darkness like pain.

 

Come down. I have been waiting for you a long time.

I wait without appearing to wait.

I see without being seen to see. You know me.

I am big headed. I am hideous. I am ugly.

 

Come down. When I find you, I will bite into your belly.

What you see is what you get with me.

There is no other way. I will become you, let us say.

All that will be left of me will be my breathing.

 

Come down where I am. In and out, out and in.

Down at the very bottom of the deep dark sea.

When I become you, my mouth will stay open.

My open mouth like the river mouth down at the bottom.

 

Come down where I am. I will flash my lights for you.

My large eyes will take you in, contain you.

I make no promises. I offer nothing. Not even light.

Down, deep down in the dark, at the bottom, is my bed.

 

My sea bed, love, where there are no promises of love.

Dark - where there are no promises of light.

Where there is little hope of food;

Where day and night are night and day.

 

My sea bed, I tell no lies, so your heart

will not be broken. I offer nothing.

All you will have is my breathing.

But I will give myself up to you.

 

I will give myself up for you.

 

IX

Where there is no light (Jackie Kay)

Where there is no light

When the pain comes in

 

Deep down below what

Anybody ever believed in

 

Where there are only mouths

Opening and closing

 

Where the head is out of all proportion

To the body

 

Where the kindness has gone

where all there is to do day and night

 

is seek out the black and the red, the red and the black

at the bottom of the sea's dark, cold, bed,

 

at the bottom

of the sea's dark bed.

 

At the bottom of the sea's cold bed

At the bottom of the sea bed.

 

X La Reine de la Mer (2) (Etel Adnan)

Liquide, liquide, élément liquide.

Je suis la mer et la Reine de la mer.

 

Coda (Bible)

Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.