JUNE 2019


Shadows and warriors


My God, how much blue you spend, so we cannot see you!
—Odysseus Elytis

Fresh water or salt —
— which is the ancestor of the other?
The cold spring from the inner workings of the mountains

twists into the bay — from the café at one end
to the ferry terminus at the other — like an oil         
it crinkles and stretches          intermingling its almost         

crystalline smoke        making ladders of fresh water           
and shock        in the warmer salt      
The first few days       you shiver       trying not to

overcompensate          for the clustering cold            
though it feels like failure      though the outer rind of you  
must soften — for something grows inside   

the work of swimming            with the sea full of nothing
but blue — the same blue Elytis raged at —
the blue mind that erases borders      

between sea and sky               Today              for the first time         
you step into the sea   with a light heart
and at once there is a verification of fish —

six small          brown ones      turning at your feet —
as the tyranny of the self is shed
along with the cushioning       and hunger

at the center of your other life           
(if you look     you can see     the language
spilling from the black pivoting eyes of the fish —

if we could lend these beings our throats
would they not say that           mind belongs to everything?)
Here    below the white bellies of gulls

below the sandstone and pumice
of the mountains         slowly eroding at the water’s edge —
where the seven shepherds     the legendary Sfakians

fought the Germans under a fierce moon
(and the jewelled water          did not look away
as it swam right out of the rock) —

there is this perfect swim        in the molasses of the sea 
in its glutinous cold and salt-honey warmth
that turn tepid             and delicious

as they slip into each other —
(as the wind has picked up a fraction)
like shadows and warriors      who are not fighting —

and out on the Libyan Sea
where the hopeful       drown on their way to Europe
a fish jumps

Geometrics of small waves     a little resistance
in the smooth water    then you take on the armor
of the deep sea and the swimming

is heading        further into the thick blue magic       
until the whole bay has gone —
the radio in the taverna           the flag on its line

even the mountains immersed in air
Somewhere     up on the mountain path        
          there are two blue chairs

placed in the shade of an olive tree —
they are turned toward each other
like old friends chatting

Jemma Borg

Jemma Borg’s first collection is The illuminated world (Eyewear, 2014). Her work has recently appeared in The Poetry Review, Oxford Poetry, and the Magma climate change issue. She won the International Ginkgo Prize for Ecopoetry in 2018 and the RSPB/Rialto Nature and Place Competition in 2017. She lives in the UK and has a background in science. Her website is jemmaborg.co.uk.