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Chapter 6 of Ark Noon

and I don’t know where we’re going to go but I know that Skelly is a proper rower so we take one of the Penny’s long boats, long enough to sit three in easy and we row out and around the island of the Penny’s farm and I think for a moment that we should go home, just turn the boat north and tell Father Leigh what’s happened, maybe that’s the right thing to do, maybe he’d come back with us and pray over them all, over their ashes and talk to Skelly, get him to understand, but more likely it’d send Skelly nuts and Father Leigh would start scanning his patchwork bible for the exact words that prophesised this happening to the Pennys and he’d find those words and they’d say something like and Sarah Penny will not live beyond her fifteenth year, beyond her first kiss and I’d have to take the bible then and burn it with Father Leigh’s other crappy books and then I’d have to leave anyway so I don’t turn the boat north and I make a guess that the Wavers are probably far enough away by now to not worry too much about, that they could be anywhere, so we row south because that’s the way dad went and the madman who came to the Penny’s stopped being mad eventually and he told Rick that only a day’s row away, hard rowing he said, the water was receding and there was land just like dad said there was in the north but the madman told Rick that the land that was coming back was as rotten as the water because it was full of people, hungry, greedy, dangerous people and maybe it’s where the Wavers came from, but dad is going that way because it’s where his ghost of mum is, in London, in drowned London, in what’s left of London or what’s not left of it, and dad will keep going south until there’s no south left to get to and as I look north then south, the dark night, the dark water, I know dad’s gone more over the edge than the madman or Father Leigh ever went and there’s part of me that almost wishes dad had been in the Penny’s farm because wouldn’t that make everything easy, wouldn’t he just have been at peace or something then, he wouldn’t have to go off looking for mum, he wouldn’t go on about there being land in the north again or the south or the west or the east or wherever he wants there to be land, I wouldn’t have to follow him, to keep following him, and I could go home and pretend almost that dad never lost it, never thought he knew mum was alive, I could pretend he just went to see Rick Penny like he always did, that he just had really bad luck and went over there at the wrong time and I could deal with that but instead I row south and really it’s Skelly who does all the proper rowing, I hardly need to row much, and we don’t stop all night even though we’re both hungry and I didn’t bring my fishing rod but we pass some roots and there’s a bird’s nest there and we sit in the boat in the pitch black night, not a single cloud now just all the stars, just the mess of stars, and we suck the eggs and they’re not good but at least they’re food so we row on south but there’s no land, just water and water and water, no birds even to make us think land is near and I’m glad Skelly doesn’t hardly talk, he’ll sit there happily rowing until I tell him to stop, he’s wordless, not a thought in his head except to row, just stirring at the flat water, the grey water, the hills far off, slowly forgetting the Pennys, forgetting he left Harry sleeping by the well and I do the same, stay wordless, just the sound of our oars dipping, breaking the water, sloshing, then rising and we’re experts at it both of us because our strokes are clean and I couldn’t say how far we’ve rowed, my only markers are the hills and they seem as far away as they ever were but then I hear the bird and looking up I see it, just a gull circling, then another, then another, and I bring my oar up, call for Skelly to stop and I stand up so the boat wobbles and Skelly goes watch it, mate and as I look out over Skelly’s massive head I see water, the froth of waves, rolling onto land, lapping against a shore of mud and stone, and I tell Skelly to look so he turns and I know he doesn’t understand what he’s seeing because I only understand from all the books dad would bring me, because I’ve never had much else to do but read books that tell me how the world was, tell me what I’ll never see and yet in front of me, rising out of the water, is something I was certain I’d never see, as if it’s just been revealed now for me, the water parting, and it’s lost like everything else below us, behind us, but here it rises out of the water and I know it’s a road, and Skelly rows us closer, slowly like he’s scared stiff at what he’s seeing, and I see faded yellow lines, interspersed, broken, and I think to myself that dad must be out there somewhere, that this is some kind of sign or something, that people are always following roads, and I can’t help wonder what it must feel like to walk on a road

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About michaeleganpoetry

Liverpool based poet and editor. I have had four pamphlets of poetry published, most recently After Stikklestad (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2010). Penned in the Margins published my first collection, Steak & Stations, in 2010.

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