Ottley (formerly Wyatt) writes poetry – and some short fiction – from her home in Penzance in Cornwall. Since 2009, her work has appeared in more than 150 journals, magazines and anthologies including The Blue Nib, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Atrium Poetry and Words With Jam. She was also one of the poets featured in Wave Hub: new poetry from Cornwall (2014) edited by Dr Alan M Kent and published by Francis Boutle. In 2019, 12 of her poems were translated into Romanian for Pro Saeculum and Banchetul. For this, much gratitude to translator and bilingual poet, Mariana Gardner. In the same year, Abigail’s poem ‘Bull Male, Sleeping’ was chosen for ‘Poems on the Move’ at the Guernsey Literary Festival. (formerly Wyatt) writes poetry – and some short fiction – from her home in Penzance in Cornwall. Since 2009, her work has appeared in more than 150 journals, magazines and anthologies including The Blue Nib, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Atrium Poetry and Words With Jam. She was also one of the poets featured in Wave Hub: new poetry from Cornwall (2014) edited by Dr Alan M Kent and published by Francis Boutle. In 2019, 12 of her poems were translated into Romanian for Pro Saeculum and Banchetul. For this, much gratitude to translator and bilingual poet, Mariana Gardner. In the same year, Abigail’s poem ‘Bull Male, Sleeping’ was chosen for ‘Poems on the Move’ at the Guernsey Literary Festival.
THE SEA ALWAYS WINS
(For R. M. a Cornish diver) The sea is an indifferent lover. She, your delight, your mistress, your concubine, is not the great gift you imagine. You, in your passion, your all-consuming obsession, who are worshipful, enraptured, you see nothing but her beauty. But she is nothing if not duplicitous. Slippery as the song of the mermaid, she is only seeming fond. You come to my tidal land of rocks and shifting sands and you say to me: I love the sea. I smile then because you are like the innocent who is taken for a fool by his own recklessness. You turn your back in sleep and she whom you adore at that very moment rises up and robs up you blind. For the sea is like this. It goes grabbing, grabbing. It grabs and takes what it fancies: great ships, fine, rich cargo, whole crews of good men, you too if it chances on you napping. The sea shows no kindness, no fellow feeling; the sea has no regrets, and no conscience. On or under it, make no mistake about it, the sea always wins. Myself I lost a son to the sea so the sea's one up on me. I confront it head on because I know its true nature and the sea is my proper adversary. My work is all for the balance of things — to restore what the tides steal away.
THE NIGHT AFTER CHRISTMAS
(Boxing Day, 1962) On the afternoon of the night after Christmas there was snow and the people were glad. A cold snap, they said, just right for the season now the turkey and the pudding had been eaten. Picturesque, they said, on the lunch time news. The icing on the national cake. Snow fell heavily all afternoon. Children stuck out their tongues to taste its tingle lobbed snowballs in battles, street against street sneaked painted tin trays from deserted kitchens to serve as makeshift toboggans; polished and perfected till they shone like glass, a national network of slides. It was festive. There was much fun and laughter on the evening in question. When dusk called them in to their open fires, many bright-eyed children were sad. Later, on the evening in question, it remained cold but clear. At Crewe the points froze over. Between Winsford and Crewe the Mid-day Scot on its journey out of Glasgow to Euston stopped, quite correctly, at an automatic signal. The signal was quite plain. It showed red. The driver, quite correctly, tried to seek advice. But the telephone was found to be broken. On the evening in question there was no communication. Inoperative equipment, the report later said. On the evening in question the Liverpool to Birmingham was likewise detained at a signal. Its driver, seeing that signal clear, quite correctly prepared to move ahead. He could not have known the Mid-day Scot was behind him that the telephone was broken or the Mid-day Scot was behind him; that the Mid-day Scot’s driver had also seen the signal. He could not have imagined how events would later unfold. On the evening in question the Mid-day Scot was gathering speed in the darkness. The driver and the fireman saw the Liverpool Express just before the engine hit. The two rearmost carriages of the Limestreet train became telescoped, one into the other. There were trees nearby. Untouched by debris their snow-laden branches simply snapped. On the evening in question in the chaos that followed a man broke a window with a table ran a mile across snow-covered fields to a farmhouse hoping for a phone. He did not, could not know, as he ran this telephone was also out of action. The lines were down because of the snow. With no choice, he ran again. On the evening in question twenty-five thousand volt wires dangled over the wreckage. Sixty fireman and fifteen engines attended the scene. A few passing motorists stopped to assist. Shone their headlights at on the frozen embankment. The crews from twenty ambulances groped through the freezing dark. On the night in question the snow kept falling. No one thought it was pretty. At a nearby farm an outhouse and a loose box were re-purposed as a temporary morgue. Firemen worked to sift the wreckage: found glass, twisted metal, dolls with real hair, teddy bears, unused toys.