From ‘Glossary on a North Sea Landscape’ | Alistair Noon

An unrelenting wind, a surface that
you never thought or felt could be this flat;
a land where few horizons might look straighter,
home to HUME’s uniformity of nature;
a place where water is both kind and sly,
and ninety codes of grey would paint the sky;
the rays that make it here are all oblique.
Its weather systems never miss your cheek:
a Patagonia of the northern climes,
where if you nailed your wind bells up, the chimes
across the air would send your neighbours nuts
and fetch them with their pitchforks from their huts.

This region’s where the planet chucks its mass at us,
the floods for which our first source isn’t TACITUS
upbraiding Roman readers for lax morals –
filled with fine wine and fiddling with their laurels –
by setting forth the way barbarian wives
and husbands ply their simple, Northern lives,
not fussed about gold. It’s that bit in PLINY’s
Natural History, ‘Countries that have no trees’,
concerning branches of the Chauci tribe,
the rain the only liquid these imbibe:
he’s shocked how anyone could stick their boot
on this terra infirma bare of fruit.



The opening lines of ‘Glossary on a North Sea Landscape’, one of two long poems featured in Alistair Noon’s Two Verse Essays. You can order the pamphlet securely by clicking on the relevant PayPal button below.

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More than 60 previous Featured Poems can be accessed via this index (many of these pages also contain audio recordings and short films).