(After Tristan and Iseult)

The darkness opened
And small iron filings poured to the granite floor
among the blood. His cries scraped through the air
shattered marks in the slate cliffs
later mistaken for runes
cold in the rock.
The sea watched, and felt nothing.
Greening waves in the depths
The great stone-work shifting of leviathans
moved in her like neurons, twisting
up into a bundle of gravity –
moon had left long ago, the sea
was flat and had no hopes or goals.

rust-mother looked on his face
and its platings, hammered, forged in the womb-forge
and smiled and tears broke on her lids
as waves crashed on dark cliffs
and she passed into darkness as through
a sharp internal pain draining presence
or walking into a sun-warmed bedroom –

rust was left in the cold-cornish air
a patina shining on his iron body
began to write with the oxygen of the air
the lay of his life – already peeling
his eyes were squeaking
as he blinked and squinted.

* * *

So. He grew year by year
structure by structure and collapse
to be a bundle of metal, slowly trundling.
His father’s task for him was to mend the nets, though he often cut them
to start, with his jagged hands.
He piled up in the sea-wet air
on a corner, pebble beach side street
to the surf he sat.
And the dampening sea fizz chilled his face
grooved and softened by rust-father’s terrified hammer hits,
shaping, flaking red-iron flakes to the cobbled

For example, he couldn’t play music – he tried
he cut the lute-strings
or whatever instrument there was
so instead he cut net-fibres on ceramic-sting fingers
and rusted, to be sure he did that
in the netheaps.

He knew sea, sea was what he understood
and the castle on the tattered peninsula
wind-eaten, sea-smashed – he knew it.
Sea would send him messages, each
empty shells to the ear, empty
as the dried up cloying shark-egg case
washed onto the sharp shore, drawn to the flat sand.

rust was a hard kid to bring up, after all
what could he eat? Nobody knew.
He couldn’t eat chowder, his mouth had never opened
He cried, sea-gull shouted for food.
His father thought he would starve.
In the end it seemed he ate
the knots of the dry air-parts themselves
as he crumbled all over,
leaving soft trail after
trail of dried up blood dust.

Pain tingling the snagged fingers
of all the girls who tried to touch him
or touched him to laugh, for fun, etcetera
and young women, enchanted by metal
got close. Though their eyes sparkled
rust couldn’t feel
he stroked them, he cut them, and couldn’t hear
metal cast gunk oxidised in the ear canal
and iron ear-drums are hard to move
their screams only woke him
to the skittering present occasionally. rust
never meant to hurt them.
He was young.
Metal doesn’t know what drives it
why it sinks quickly and dusts up
in water
a cloudy maroon-redness of murk.

but he remembered the soft smell
and the downy hair on her back
sometimes it was all he could remember

* * *

In his nineteenth year,
it was already enough
rust couldn’t swim. He walked into the spray
silent, but his mind thunder screamed
molten iron tears bit the water
as he strode out, sinking with absolute ease
out in the black depths, something
the sea
heard him, saw him, watched.
she spat the last of her aeon thaum

to cast a fate-spell
to vaporise the water portion to steam in a frantic stream up around the castle
and draw it thundering up in a hurricane knot
pulsing, flying like a sperm-whale road over the castle
slow as the star arc’s turning

We hardly need note it frightened the nobles.
stubbled, oil-sweated
scrabbled in fur-rug rooms to feed
on fish, cod and plaice, moon-caught
catch of crab from the cave of the sea.
They looked up.
They all looked up.

Her husband too, looked up
from looking down deep into her moon dark pool
pool of her life
confined to the deep damp
of the bulbous mushroomings
of the peninsula cellar

rust stood on the drained sea floor’s mud
surrounded by a flailing drowning shoal
of muddy fish
and dark crabs eating them already
flapping in the mud

he looked up

* * *

A skin slice sharp bone-handle knife
sliced a sliver of her – her husband’s hand
trembled –
of sucking brain marsh from the pool
silt screamed, but the seas roar smothered it.

He stepped into the courtyard,
his body marked with her body-blood
collared his pickers
they stood silent in the hour in the doom light
of the sea’s planetary serpenting
you, what does it mean
he spat
grubby leather-shirted beachcomber
the beachcomber shrugged, went back to the courtyard
continued cleaning his brush.
– the sea’s sky knot will tie you up
he muttered
it did
it tied up mark-king
into a charged up neuron tangle and anger
he had to kill someone, quick
kill their soul
to avenge this display of making-me-seem-powerless
I’m king here
said he
not the sea
bring me the shit that did this
who has designs on my wife
to wash her away
The sea pickers sat and wry-smiled
in the salt rain

* * *

after all that happened
rust-father secured work for the shard-child
rust-father changed, his hammer went into the wave-dark
and rust made coin turning
small dark chips of himself into iron-cut coins
in the castle forge, that autumn
when the sea-gulls cawed in the sun-drizzle
they had to finance the war somehow

as unit after unit of dark armoured soldiers
slipped their mushroom helmets down into the ocean’s twilit surface
waving their weapons in a last embrace,
then choking each other with frightened hugs.

what an opportunity in rust
mark-king wanted to lock him up
as soon as he saw that ore-pitted face

rust couldn’t run
so he slag-heaped up in the basement
on his own
and the work ashed his mind with repeats
rust-father was sad and proud
of such pain-balance.
he visited.

* * *

moderately shined parades of horn-pipes
went on endlessly
monotonously blasting through all the holes in his balance
he sat inside – hard hands dangled
thinking about the women he used to love
when he was forge-run off
spatter of metal
His ash mind completely out
blown away

Silt saw.
saw through the damp across cracks.
she dripped in with a little water
it stung,
but this rust-thing tasted
sharp when she tasted the air
sharp but she wanted to taste more
like putting your tongue on a battery
So. she molded through to see him.

* * *

and when they lay at night together finally, hidden
after the static had built up so much, so strong
it sparked across her damp-lips and his frame
collapsed into hers with a peeling crash and relaxation
she shivered all over, rousing a dry-ice murk
to gum up the floor. he screeched
and clattered like a miniature smith-works

At first, it goes well, but silt
lay there and after the first magnetic minutes
that polarised all filings on the floor in infinities
she felt the blade of his lips nip and catch
and they couldn’t seem to get the rhythm right
his arms felt uncomfortable, and rust
tried to hold on to the glistening woman as best he could
but she kept slipping and slapping the stone, or him
in a way that made him shiver and catch
until in the end he felt empty again
and so did she –
but she was empty precisely like
an empty hourglass

they hadn’t filled each other up as expected
he hid or lost the part of his structures
that made himself himself
and his dark-orange dust
mixed with her mud in a way
that made him think of the sea and swimming
and she lay at the bottom of her pool again
slightly worn out, slightly clearer
but mostly mud.

* * *

rust stood naked by the pool
a dark mass of mess in the cold-dark
and in the deep veins of his ore-self
he felt a tremble
but he couldn’t pronounce it
he squinted out the slit-cave window to the sea
saw the crash and wave-tumble
they seemed, happier
he stretched his arms against his head

silt held his foot
because she couldn’t let go.
when he walked just out of reach, out of the reddening pool
she let her hand
be pulled off
and she lay, backwards in the inch
grime water cave-bottom.

They didn’t speak because at this moment
both of them realised the uselessness of words
to do anything about what they were feeling right then.
A far-off crash of thunder dhoomed in the reaches
They looked into each other’s eyeholes
and although it seemed everything and the atmos
was falling apart – they each felt
some kind of sad chance stuck to the other
they sent soft smiles through the gloom
and the smiles shored them
salt-rain began to slither in, crack-wise
The sea’s smile

It wasn’t always like that.
But somehow, mostly it was.

* * *

the door
at the cave door
marke-king trembled

He watched the whole thing
most of the whole thing
When he wasn’t crying he watched the whole thing
When he wasn’t walking up-cavern to get weapons
He watched the whole thing
And warriors and shackles
Piles and piles of shackles.
And he stood trembling
Watching the whole thing trembling in his
Deep desire, having it tweaked
Like a branch tapping annoyingly on the window loudly

And this is what rust thought too
In an instant ping of overwhelming paranoia
Which propagated through the iron-neurons
making a change which is reversible only with difficulty
This new paranoia placed marke everywhere
In the dark, in the night. Everywhere, waiting.
It just also happened to be true.

But what did silt feel
She felt trepidation rippling stomachs
A deep trepidation, knelling a panic

A deep trepidation
wasn’t so different
From the usual:


Water spitting down from cavemouth
into aeons old fire-pits, filling,
draining deeper,
through nook and cavern, finally pooled
in a skeletons shallow resting place
this final survivor of escape
fleeing blades, crawling fingers, eyes, into darkness
into the deep darkness by the village
where hand’s beating became
the crust of earth’s heartbeat.
And Volcano looked on, feeling
the slowing pulse, the blanknesses
of the eyes taking on the the deepness
of skullpits
felt nothing, but heated the pool
due in part to some kind of allegiance to life
and soon the melt-water and calcium
structures bubbled with the dirt and brought
Silt out of the nothing and into this
less than nothing.

And thus it was for years until
some enterprising hermit found her there
perfect under the clear still-water
told others. And marke-king, being king
had to see the thing.

Stooping into the cave, alone
the surface’s reflection of the torchlight
spoiled his view – he doused it in her
she screamed and he felt
power and beauty squirm up
in a sublime torrent under his stomach
as her face was flashing revealed
and then unrevealed as the murk rose
and wow
it was his own beauty
his own power, here in this pool
and he screamed too but he screamed ‘bring buckets’
and soon
she sat transplaced in peninsula’s pool
shivering in the gloom
afraid of Marke’s visits
but slightly, mostly more afraid
of everything else

in the next cavern over
an owl screeched a daytime screech
like a bubble bursting
and she sank down


this time
rust tensed up, sloughed off
his salvage-sweat

– We can’t do this
his eyes said
– we are doing it
gargled silt
– we can’t do this
said rust’s eyes

his eyes are wide
and they look like
swirling clouding mud in water but arterial blood red
hers greys and black, a dulled matter

she collapses backwards,
drains rolls over slides over
her flesh mind clinging
to the floor, black along her back
she bubbles a sigh

– fine – leave

rust left – marke left with him
always following

everywhere – a thought
there was marke
thinking it too
A plan – marke already planned it
A touch – he touched marke
by accident on the way to touch whatever it was
marke didn’t know yet – of course
we know
marke knew all too well
everything that rust did
and more

Rust sat on his beach-corner
netting and knitting again
hearing the tramping of waves

That tramping was marke and his army
(having carefully thought and decided poison)
coming along the cliffs down to the beach-huts
down to pick up rust

– we’ll show the little bastard.
– We’ll show him
– for what he’s done since I can do nothing about the weather
– I will latch onto this little metallic fucker
said marke
and rust was scared already of exactly what was happening
but he didn’t yet know it was happening
and then it happened


an old woman in the castle watched what happened and thought to herself
– But really! Really what would be the meaning of them drinking
– Poison! What cultus brought this
– Corrosion and void to their inner parts
– An acidic tale of death and risk
– Why was it poison and not
– Anything else, anything. she looked on.
her mind emptied as the crowd gathered

marke held them close
rust and silt
(he’d had her brought deliberately to the courtyard
where she slopped on the ground,
an annunciation of misery with arms
clasped muckily to her sides
slightly dissolving in the rain)
marke hugged them slightly manic like old friends
and his eyes rounded to the widest they could be
and stayed like that for the rest of the poem
he breathed in and out quickly repeatedly and placed a small vial
right on the small and damp beheading stone
in the rain
and said, simply.
– Drink it

and rust wanted to speak
but we know he couldn’t
he rattled in the cold air
his feet tapping the cobbles

and silt was crying but you couldn’t tell
just goop amongst slightly denser goop
dripping to the floorways,
rolling with the sea’s rain.

DRINK IT came the cry.
marke king took his bone knife and held it
to silts gargling throat as she sobbed.
rust saw this and became steel
he grabbed the vial and uncorked it
the acidic smell made him retch with a screech.
he raised the vial and the rain and love drained down
as the thunder came rolling through.

rust thought back to all the great moments
of his life
the small moments his father had smiled
or made a joke and tapped his shoulder
the small blurry photograph of his mother
the mammalian fur and musk of his first failed human love
when he repaired a net particularly well
or just sat there in the swell, thinking
and he didn’t think of silt
but that was mostly because he was doing this based on an accumulation of events beyond explanation in his own life
on top of the searing duty to her and
love of holding her close
as the poison melted his lips and drained down
his throat the first thing he’d ever eatenn

here is the part where rust finally speaks

The sea looked down from her high plaited seat
counted down, and finished casting
the spell. For a moment, everything paused
then with an atomic shockwave

His mouth split and darkness poured in,
And the x bore down
And the rain sea hyperdrived into his eyes
And with the borning of a voice
The rune-carved lay of his body-knit
Dredged up a phrase from the deep

He screamed, squealed with twisting strings
And his mouth split


It was the most searing thing
Silt had ever heard
And the Sea sighed and her snapped knot
splashed in the air and began to rain down.

where it touched the army
they dissolved in an inky squall
glooped down the cliffside in sodden globs
and the sea’s pulsar heart landed
with all power of her thaum dregs
right on the peninsula cliff
and the castle
shattered and the cliff
scattered and the boom
and shockwave shaved slivers off house and slope for all the sea’s fathoms
carved a deep cave into the under-rock

and far off in the background Volcano erupted
out of sheer joy

And it was over.


or not quite. marke
laid out by the blast sat on the shore, dazed
when all the sand around him began to move
it was silt. dissolved,
she coagulated onto his clothes,
pulled herself together
poured into his nose
his mouth

there were no screams
there was only bubble after bubble
til the last bubble.
she sighed bubbles. looked out at the sea
who looked back filled with new hopes and dreams
which reflected silt’s fresh now hopes and dreams
of something


That night, despite the long
and arduous day and its final unlikely and half marred happiness
Rust sat far from Silt
Felt alone, felt the days chargings
buzzing in his skin like
so many rusted coins unearthed in furrows
clipped coins for a future coin of happiness
a gap between new and old

so many days may feel worthless
deep in the night
when you stayed up too late
he knew this now
but that only occasionally stopped him
meditating in the shell fragments of the sea’s
unexpectedly intense infinite timescape

thoughts of silt soothed his drying nerves
with a soft hand and clip to the net line
and eye to eye contact

dreamt of being human
running fingers through hung linen
on a breezy cliffside

‘Everything would be fine,
everything would be fine.’

it was silt, she prayed.
dripped over, sat by.


And promising more, and less
the sea withdrew,
in the curls of her waves
she betrayed a certain joy
before she betrayed, after a while
just the noise of
caressing the fabric of pebbles
and then, nothing
and then, the darkness