St. Peter and the Storm Petrels

Footsteps on water.

Dawn clear as prayer.
Bodies hanging over water

like small, dark beads.

How long have they been out there
treading slowly across the bay,
staring down into the salt-clear distances,
scrying for storms?

There was a time when a saint walked on water.
We saw him – a bright light crossing the bay
leaving a trail of taut, still water
marked with footprints.

He left long ago, turning west
on his weightless march,
leaning into the heft of the waves
like a restless ship.

We still wait for him to return,
but perhaps, lost or driven mad
by such winds, such distances,
this is what he has become –

a petrel hanging over water,
staring down as if in wonder
and pattering its ragged dance

to the distant, scudding footfall of storms.

by Ben Smith

A reminder that the deadline for submissions to the Poetry Centre’s International Poetry Prize is 31 August. There are two categories: Open and English as a Second Language, and First Prize in each category is £1000. The competition will be judged by Bernard O’Donoghue and Hannah Lowe, and you can enter by visiting this page.

The poet Clare Pollard is currently touring a staged version of Ovid’s Heroines, in which she reads, recites and performs her astonishing poems against a backdrop of Mediterranean light and sound. Produced by Jaybird Live Literature, the show visits the Burton Taylor Studio Theatre in Oxford this Thursday 9 July. For more details and for tickets, visit the Oxford Playhouse website.

‘St. Peter and the Storm Petrels’ is copyright © Ben Smith, 2014. It is reprinted from Sky Burials (Worple Press, 2014) by permission of Worple Press.

Notes from Worple Press:

Ben Smith’s poetry, criticism and short fiction has been published in a wide range of magazines, anthologies and journals. He completed a PhD on Environmental Poetry at Exeter University and currently lives in Devon. The poems in his debut pamphlet Sky Burials map shifting environments, strange ecological events and dubious auguries. Told through the voices of birds, unreliable seers and broken bones found in rivers and museums, these dark, playful poems explore prophecy and ritual, science and uncertainty in the era of climate change. Read more about the pamphlet on the Worple site, and another poem from the collection (as well as work from Worple poet Isabel Galleymore) on The Clearing website.

Worple Press was founded by Peter and Amanda Carpenter in 1997 and publishes 6-8 books a year by new and established poets: collections, pamphlets, works in translation, essays, interviews. Early authors included Iain Sinclair, Joseph Woods, Beverley Bie Brahic, Kevin Jackson and the acclaimed American nature poet Peter Kane Dufault. Recent collections (2014/2015) include Andy Brown’s Exurbia, Isabel Galleymore’s Dazzle Ship, Martyn Crucefix’s A Hatfield Mass, Julian Stannard’s The Street of Perfect Love, and Clive Wilmer’s Urban Pastorals. More information can be found at the publisher’s website, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.