An extract from

Dunstanburgh

Katrina Porteous

There is a castle by the sea
That no road leads to any more -

On the height of a cliff, the farthest edge
of land, a wind-rucked field;a wall

And gatehouse, ruled across the sky;
A city, seen from miles away;

A promise, pledged in tall stone towers
That, more than battle, passing years,

Winter on winter of wind and rain,
Have battered down to a great ruin;

There's a secret as old
As the stones to unlock:
There's a riddle, a mystery
Trapped in the rock, In the rock,
In the rock,
In the rock,
In the rock,
In the rock.

And nobody visiting listens or stays
Long enough to tell that the noise

Of the sea on the cliff-face does not cease,
Or to say when the swallows and gulls that roost

In its loud, rocky hollows are suddenly gone
To the tug of winter; and nobody sees

How, in its hours of solitude,
The ruin is endlessly reclaimed:

Rift of rock,
Buckle. Twist.
Black scar,
Wrench, ruck.
Cold stone
Crust, crack:

Rift of rock,
Buckle. Twist.
Black scar,
Wrench, ruck.

Cold stone
Crust,

Crack!
Grey-green lichen,
Brittle, prickly,
Boils and blisters,
Crusty, crackly

Moon-craters,
Pale and warty,
Witches fingers,
Scabbed and scaly.

Grey-green lichen,
Brittle, prickly,
Boils and blisters,
Crusty, crackly
Moon-craters,
Pale and warty,
Witches fingers,
Scabbed and scaly.


 


No road leads to Dunstanburgh Castle; but over the course of a year Katrina Porteous, who lives within sight of this lonely Northumbrian ruin, visited it in all weathers, minutely observing its seasonal changes. The result was the radio-poem Dunstanburgh, the opening verses of which we print above.

Dunstanburgh is published by Smokestack Books, PO Box 408, Middlesbrough TS5 6WA (01642 813997).

Katrina Porteous

Katrina Porteous is an award-winning poet who has lived at Beadnell in Northumberland since 1987. She was born in Aberdeen, grew up in County Durham, read history at Cambridge and went on to study in the US on a Harkness Fellowship. A Gregory Award winner in 1989, she has since won writers' bursaries from the Arts Council, Northern Arts and the Society of Authors, and in 2003 she was awarded an Arts Foundation Award in Poetry.

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Dunstanburgh © 2004 Katrina Porteous: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.


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