This poem was published in Abridged, an online poetry magazine which focuses on contemporary poetry that articulates responses to a rapidly-changing society. Annette Skade’s poem was written in response to the theme of ‘Rust’ and examines that idea in a poem about ‘the peninsula.’
Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘The Peninsula’ is rightly treasured for its focus on the peninsula as a natural phenomenon which shows us ‘water and land in their extremity’, but Skade turns our eyes instead to the way that the landscape and people are scourged by the elements.
Skades reads the peninsula through the detritus of objects abandoned to the weather, and – as the objects, and the failed intentions, and disappointments they represent accumulate – the poem finally turns inward to examine the self.
A tongue of brown tin curls on the far shed,
ready to be ripped by the next high wind.
On the pier rust rimes cars and winches.
Scrap metal, grassed over by the ditch,
slowly turns to burnt-brown grit.
Rust fills every gap in the fields, gnaws
iron bedsteads, crumpled oil drums,
a wheelbarrow rammed between stones.
Paint cans, old tins of nails leave rings
of rust on window ledge and doorstep.
Digging old ground, the spade jars,
scrapes out chains; half hinges;
broken shears; one side
of a rusty tongs – left lying
begrudged: never fully let go.
The salt wind brings me in.
I look in the mirror, examine
jaundiced eyes; psoriasis.
I retch, taste the bitter tang,
spit blood like coffee grounds.