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12 February 2014

“Black Dog Whelk Feeds on a Barnacle“: a poem by John Wedgwood Clarke

By john Wedgwood Clarke

Lost keys run riot between desk and pocket

leave me for dead at the door.

I won’t be sweet: there’s a hairline crack

in this sun-baked shell that’s lost all faith in the sea.

Black Dog Whelk listens through itself

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and every move I fail to make,

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aches and drills and knows it’s only time

before it thins the dark, a stony light

about to break between table, cup and tap.

I can’t say my name and begin and begin.

He’s in my throat, his toothed tongue

whispering down long corridors of bone

but no one’s here to answer

or speak the crackling emptiness of this room.

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A former actor, painter and university lecturer, John Wedgwood Clarke is currently Leverhulme Poet in Residence at the University of Hull’s Centre for Environmental and Marine Sciences. His latest book, Ghost Pot (Valley Press), takes inspiration from the coastal life of north-east England. The title refers to lobster pots which, having broken from their moorings, trawl the ocean floor, “crammed to the throat with bony shields”.