Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Elizabeth Welsh’s ‘all the intertidal meadows’

all the intertidal meadows


my therapist casually suggested that I embody seagrass; this seemed dangerously close to social prescribing, but I had been reading Fontaine with its daymares repeatedly that autumn, together with articles on forest bathing, which seemed earthy, hungry, darkly prescient, so I experienced the briefest of pauses before I embraced it, placing a dark halo over a quivering body evolved from terrestrial plants, returning to the wide-open space of underwater hollows, to silence, to quaking, glittering light. they have flowers and seeds and roots and leaves and connective tissues; they have ribboning foliage, holding firm in built-up silt on tidal flats.

when we found the audio recorder we wanted to buy, the sales assistant outlined the different ways I could record conversations, as if this was the object’s sole purpose. I thought about the taking of another’s voice, the permission we were granting ourselves to grasp the sung shrieks of grass, and I turned to look at your mended lips, reading their unhurried movement. we took the handheld recorders into the soft carpet marsh of the wetlands, stopped our footfalls and created slight archives of our meagre silence, our scant pause. you were annoyed when I interrupted to ask how we define aural stimulus; but what is noise and what is sound? is there a moment – a blurred boundary? is a sound always so fitfully tender and sinking?

your lungs of clay heaved with the cold and unsympathetic air, my tendons stretched, elastic over our loud together loneliness. if you took a diecut mould and used it on me, you’d find: there’s your body and hers and safe and hard and compost and squeaking tedium and peaty soil; there’s microbes and knuckles and luminescence and practice and precarity and crushing blends of all this. we sign up for a noxious plant maintenance scheme when we leave via the ranger’s hut, and she informs us that it is mainly cordgrasses that we will be tackling. they strangle the groundcover, she murmurs earnestly, and we know to nod many times and make appropriate noises. all the intertidal meadows are swollen, she grows tiny as she talks, and I struggle to lip-read what she’s saying as she moves closer and closer to the compressed, rising earth

Elizabeth Welsh

Elizabeth Welsh is a poet, papermaker and academic editor. She is the author of Over There a Mountain, published by Mākaro Press in 2018. Her poetry has been published in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and she is Auckland Council’s Artist in Residence for 2021, creating site-specific poetry and handmade paper on/from the wetlands at Āwhitu Regional Park. She lives in Titirangi with her husband and daughter.

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