Thursday, 7 November 2013


You see it best from the air:
how salt perpetuates itself, turned from the sea
to whiten the marais salants, graded and sieved
and laid in ice-white drifts beneath the sun;

the way you see bonfires or house lights
glimmering in the dark, between the lakes
and cities; marshland dotted here and there
with lanterns; eel boats moving in the dams;

nightfishers coming home with another catch,
the gleam of the deck
and the absolute cold of the nets
deduced, not given.

You see it travelling through: a passenger
guided from point to point by an unknown hand,
an idling web of memory and salt
turning to glance at the earth, as it slides away

and the slow clouds thicken and gather
beneath the plane.
Below, it's different: the air is wired
with birds and weather; old spills

fester in the ditches; scared
ibis haunt the marshlands in their
thousands, calling softly back and forth
to wake the shadows of forgotten kings.

Below, on the Place Dinan,
the market is a broken theatre,
tourists go round in circles, looking for gifts
and souvenirs, for little bags of salt

and books of recipes, galettes and honeyed crepes
they'll never cook, CDs
of bagadou, knitwear and books,
blanched postcards of the salt marsh from the air:

those perfect shapes, those neat, well-managed dams,
those circles of water, dark-blue, like a Celtic
knot, a pattern, conjured from the air
in lines of salt that might be infinite;

                                          - John Burnside
Glossary: marais salants - (French) salt marshes; Place Dinan: a hotel in the walled town of Dinan in North-Western France bordered by the English channel to the North and the Celtic sea and the Atlantic ocean to the West; galettes: (French) flat, round or crusty cake; crepes: a thin pancake; bagadou: bands of Brittany

Poem 'Salt' from Gift Songs by John Burnside (London: Jonathan Cape, 2007); Image: Reyna Sequeira, As Dear as Salt: The Story of Neglect and Decay in a Traditional Occupation in Goa. (Saligao, Goa: 1556, 2013). I was fascinated by John Burnside (b. 1955) and his take on 'Salt.' After I met Reyna, at her book launch, I promised to feature the poem with her opus. 

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