Fiona Marshall is a writer and editor based in London. Her short story, “The Street of Baths,” won the 2016 V.S Pritchett Memorial Prize. She is author of ABSENCE, a novel, and has poetry and fiction published in a variety of outlets. Her work has been commended in the Manchester Fiction Prize and in the Bridport Prize.
We’ve all been there, down its navy, stinky gullet,
Its tongue bristled with sewage and seaweed sludge,
Past its great glottals, slung like lethal bells,
Knocking us downward, into slippery caverns of darkness,
To lurch and bound in the foetid pools of its stomach,
Acid churning our heels, ankles submerged, wobbly.
Unable to get a grip, barely to stand upright, breathe,
Fumes of fish oil, lungs and throat thickening,
Clutching at cartilage, clutching at air, hands sliding
Down glutinous walls, shuddering to that giant heartbeat,
Where light becomes a glint of memory, then gone.
And we think, what would it be like, to feel sky
And wind and sun again, to dance to our destiny?
Hear rain on the roof, not this dripping ceiling of slime?
To get into bed with love, rather than the white razor
Of fish bone that we hug undigested in this maw,
Skeleton to skeleton. Remember a time when
We were able to bear listening to music? Now,
All we hear is the whale’s song, a single note through
The night, otherworldly whistle muffled by shushing water,
The chill, spindly trumpet of the unimaginable,
So remote, a calling and re-calling that ignores us,
Sounding, sounding, descending ever deeper,
And it strikes us, this is the tune we should have heeded.
God, if ever we get out of here, and hear that call again,
We will follow.
two small steel cranes
their outlines whitish
far off in a field
glinting in the sun
two stilts, immobile
my God, they’re real!
taking off low and white
transmute into swan
heavy and feathered
wings whacking close to ground
beaks and eyes wicked
bodies huge and earthbourne
like earth’s longing trying to rise
in that old flying bird form
the white snakes of their necks intent
they changed from steel to blood and feathers