Parked up to check the map and its tangled veins
of intersections on the road so long and straight
it seemed to go right into the sky,
and perhaps that’s why I stopped there –
to appreciate the mauve dusk of July; mountains
the dirty thumbprints of Loki smeared against the horizon.
I felt my body disappearing into the view,
and not having to give my name to the horses
or the crow, as the woman just passing through.
Cars across the field were burning. The heat –
even a mile away – I felt it deep in my skin
like the travel of blood.
The engines ignited. Wheels rolled aflame –
cotton reels of fire-thread, the spool of gasoline silkworms;
cars burned to their skeletons, no trace of a driver or a crime.
I carried on to the ocean I’d only seen pictures of,
never quite able to imagine the blue properly,
in the way I tried to imagine Neptune.
I had to meet the Pacific, understand the blue
of it for myself, for the clarity of eons
and the tide’s constancy to become clear.
I hadn’t been swimming for years. I didn’t think
I could go that far, maybe just walk the surf,
cover my Achilles.
When I reached the coast.
When I could go no further west
I stood on the dunes with the wind lifting my hair
into a mane of yellow fire and watched the blue waves
break against rocks, lone survivors of millennia,
the water’s grace-test, the sun’s azimuth,
I knew I was cornered, backed up against the ocean
with everything I’d run from stepping forward.
Jennifer Martin studied creative writing at Bath Spa University, where she also went on to do the poetry MA. She received both first class honours and a distinction, respectively. Her poems have appeared in magazines such as Ambit, The Rialto and The Warwick Review. In 2011, she had a poem submitted for the Forward Prize’s single poem category.