Image by kind permission of J R Biddulph (copyright)
The Lighthouse Wives
There are three phases of twilight: Civil, Nautical, and Astronomical. Nautical is vital. In clear weather, the horizon is faintly visible and the brightest stars can be seen. I use their position to navigate. I am now an old sea-dog, sailing coastlines and islands, alone. Night is risky. Sometimes I have company - the aurora’s Merry Dancers or a full moon that works both for and against.
I remain tough and strong enough to make my living, overcoming naked young women dancing on beaches at dusk; tethering them to the deck as I sail toward distant flashes of light on dark seas. They cry for their seal-skins left behind on the shore, and refuse nourishment. They will adapt. Lighthouse keepers are happy to relinquish bachelorhood and don’t haggle over money; without their skins the wives are land-locked. I re-visit every light. Children are born, and loved, but lighthouse wives yearn to return to the sea. Some die young, broken-hearted. Good for business.
Lighthouses are numerous around treacherous coasts. I map them, discovering a remote islet with a towering light. Ever hopeful, slithering up rocks to the doorway, I’m disappointed to be met by a slender, wiry woman. Her man is dead, but she keeps the light. Her dark eyes laugh at my discomfort when she says she wants to buy a husband.
Snatching girls from groups of enchanted dancers is one thing, but the males look muscular and strong. I think of the money, selecting a slim laddie who has strayed from his kin. My fist smashes his face. He is surprisingly compliant when I haul him aboard. How wifey manages him is her problem. After two days we make land, barely visible through the sea-haar. The woman, dressed in her dead man’s clothes, pulls me up onto the jetty. I fall screaming as she snaps my arm. Her boot smacks my head like a mains’l boom.
He sails before dawn to reclaim his skin. A selkie with soft liquid eyes bobs beside the boat. The sun is 12° below the horizon, slowly peeling the lightening sky from the sea.
“Live Long and Prosper”
The Governance said it would make us filthy rich. Filthy as the planet’s tiny, pock-marked moons; misshapen asteroid chips where we mined Uranalite before processing it on this rusty, freezing wilderness. The Collectors never hung around. They loaded the Metamaterials, and disappeared faster than ice-caps. No pilot wanted to discover a stowaway on their ship, and have to jettison them.
We worked our asses off, vented frustrations on sex-bots and retired to habitation tunnels away from radiation, stashing forbidden stimulants grown in the bio-domes. On HiRISE cameras, a blue planet with its moon was visible, if desired. Hal was cool with this place – he was born here. The first. His mother died almost immediately afterwards. Hal had never left, smiling enigmatically when some-one called him an alien. Truth was, we were all aliens, reliant on supplies and medicines from “home”. Hal never got sick, even when accidentally exposed to raw Uranalite.
I fretted. What was this job doing to me? My body, my reproductive system? I still had my period. The night of the dust-storm I invited Hal over and sealed my door. His body was human perfection.
Almost ten months later, birthing was as painless as this century could make it. Medics formed a silent army. I screamed. The baby was long, slimy, with skin like grey-green lichen; the colour of Uranalite. I pulled Hal close to me.
“Kill it” I gasped
© June Palmer
And there have been lots! This sculpture The Old Sea Cat by Liz Watts at the exhibition Beached at Love Clay gallery in Stoke on Trent. This was back in April. Stunning and the best inspiration I've had for poetry in a long time. Absolutely buzzing when I came out of there. Many thanks to Dawn Gorman for a great workshop and to Liz for taking time to talk to us all. The readers evening was also amazing - just from this one sculpture I had the basis for poetry, a short story and a flash fiction. The December event is a must - just booked.
Featuring poetry by -
Emily Rose Galvin
Mel Wardle Woodend
Got my place in the Poetry Slam, Poetry Workshop and Open Mic. 3 days camping and only 40 minutes from home! Better get my sh*t together!
Her Last Spring
She sat on the garden window ledge,
elegant and erect as a Queen,
as proud as a ship’s prow.
If you had not known
her pretty kitten-face as I had
you would never guess
her time was less
Spring, and the sun was warm
on her soft coat of spices.
I was glad of the warmth, that she could feel it,
Though I could not believe it,
I knew it would be soon.
She was gone before the Paschal Moon
I spent April in Cornwall,
where spring was well underway
and Padstow Bay
was bathed in a bridge of rainbows.
As gulls strung themselves across the sky
I tried not to cry.
I will be reading at the 6 X 6 Reading Cafe at Hanley Library. A new story "If you believe they put a man on the moon" It's not about the moon, or conspiracy theories, nor is it science fiction or fantasy or whatever you care to call it. It’s certainly not romantic. So please come along and listen, and support local writers and libraries.
Author - June Palmer