Poem of the Week: Kona Macphee – ‘The Great Wave’

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TELEVISION has made impotent gods of its viewers.

You may be familiar with the situation: you are watching a disaster, natural or otherwise, on rolling news, the perspective that of a passing deity – and yet there is not one thing you can do. It’s a dread sensation caught well by Kona Macphee in her new collection What Long Miles (Bloodaxe, £8.95). “The Great Wave” appears to be inspired by the extraordinary footage taken during the tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011.

Is this the God’s-eye view? – to be up

beyond the surging play of danger

in a chopper’s miraculous poise on air,

tracking the furred edge of a wave

that burgeons inland, mantling these leagues

of naked ground with a rough, wet pelt,

a clabbered fur of structures

smitten to their fractured elements,

knots of loosed earth, tangled isles of fire?

Or is it the mote of a small white car

dithering there on the low road

like a dazed beetle, this, that way,

and you above, screaming Turn and drive!

Turn and drive!, your voice drowning

in the saved roar of the blades?

• You can borrow What Long Miles from the Scottish Poetry Library, 5 Crichton’s Close, Edinburgh EH8 8DT. Tel: 0131-557-2876, e-mail reception@spl.org.uk or see www.spl.org.uk.