Poetry Map of Scotland, poem no. 270: Corryvreckan

An oilskinned roughneck eyed us up
and promised us the sober thrills
of speed and boiling tides and swells.
His jet-boat whipped like light across
the waveless sound. Aboard, we gripped
each other, scared the stiffish breeze
might prise us from our open seats
and push us down to drown us in the deep.
A spew of fulmars streaked across our wake,
familiars of the promised demon of the straits.
The engines cut, we drifted out
between the tense black knuckles
of the islands, both expecting to be wowed
by swirling eddies, whitened lips of water
round a whirlpool, bottomless,
the gulping of a monster’s throat,
draining down then fiercely bubbling up.
Instead, a sheet of troubled glass,
the serpent-hissing of the ebbing tide
and other inconclusive signs of Hell.
The ocean chose today to hide its malice,
not perform its canny tricks to order,
staying calm when every instinct was to rage.
Then, later on, your lapping sighs, your
sea-grey eyes half closed against
the coming storm, the spinning sky,
the water filling up the space between us,
then, the swirling gurgle of the plug,
the water draining from the bath.
We shiver, like this warmth is all we have.
Andy Jackson

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