I gather up my loves, and keep them all warm
While above our heads blows the bitter storm
— Ruth Pitter, ‘The Sparrow’s Skull’ (1946)

Sew your walk.

This ragged way of pulling a thread through fabric, licking fingers to smooth the tips, slip the end through eye of needle. Sunday morning collects in quiet talk; sewing loosens tongues for stories. The artist Claudia Zeiske asks us to stitch a path of personal importance. Some people trace walks along coastlines, others traverse continents, decades and portions of their lives and those of ancestors: migrations, crossings, love stories and the interruptions of war, loss and disaster. Despite my best efforts, the strands bunch up in knots ( * * * * ) and make asemia of the back of what is sewn, so I can’t separate narrative from errant footsteps. With lime-coloured thread, I run a dreamwalk up the red cloth coast of my childhood. I have no sense of scale. My work is messy and glistens with references: here’s the lurch, here’s the needle

A bright green line of where are we going?

and: where are you?

To cite is a form of call. Each citation a stitch.

Claudia cites Werner Herzog’s Of Walking in Ice (1978), a diary of the director’s ambulatory journey from Munich to Paris. Herzog set off to save his dying friend, Lotte H. Eisner, believing the walk itself would keep her from death. The snow-rambling of Herzog recalls for me another great walk, Bernadette Mayer’s ‘The Way to Keep Going in Antarctica’. The poem’s insistent ongoingness makes a vessel of blood-warming stress, beating breath against the cold. I recite the inside-out: ‘Do not be afraid of your own heart beating / Look at very small things with your eyes / & stay warm’. Mayer’s words are amulets of safety. What it means to look at very small things with your eyes: to notice the seams and stitches. To pass along coastlines enamoured with every grain. First kiss of full moon. First kiss of eclipse.
I kick the sand up with my sore old shoes.

Dashes

To answer a call. It is heartbreaking to listen to the worrying, as Herzog writes: ‘Lotte Eisner, how is she? Is she alive? Am I moving fast enough? I don’t think so’.

To never move fast enough

walking as the world warms beyond measure.

I worry the piecework of memory to believe those knots (*) of mine are side effects of failure’s free-ranging refusal to tell it straight. As Emily Dickinson says ‘Tell all the truth but tell it slant—’, we tell the truth but tell it stitched, bunched, tangled. I delight in the word ‘birdnesting’ as a way of describing what it looks like when sewing thread bunches up on the underside of your fabric. My sewing is bad because I’m too busy listening, bunched up in the musings of others. I make a sort of nest of everything said. Warmest wishes.

Plants are lovely errory. All the best plans are wild-caught, shiny.

I seek flourishing in threads of sentences. Claudia keeps a blog of her rambles, writing staccato details in bite-size paragraphs: ‘Egg roll, posh houses, where is the heart?’. Vicariously, I take her walks: full of cues, swerves and conversing. I start to think of blogging as the generous sending of celestial postcards, light in each line.

On Portobello High Street, someone asks me for directions to the coracle launch which is happening soon. We get talking and this man unknown offers me a square of patterned wool. He says making these squares, knitting them each morning, is his way of waking up. The wool is white, blue, salmon, purple. ‘I knit to cope’.

Each day adds to the patchwork, like the voices braiding Jonathan Baxter’s walk of the Braid Burn, stitched with fruit of the watercourse — many floating poets.

There is the saying ‘a stitch in time (saves nine)’, meaning it’s better to act upon problems immediately because if you wait to deal with them later, they will only get worse.

I feel sunlight’s limerent pull of the future. Time emulsifies in the foam of my coffee,
foam of the sea-lapping shore.
Pull the ragged
wave
of the days
over many tired shoulders.

Keep going.

Word square

Super Sweet 100s

I love what can’t hold itself up
infinity of super sweet 100s
nourished with ample support
could hold tresses of tomatoes
underwired lovelies
an inch in diameter
all the better to pop
in your mouth
from May to June
my favourite amount
of continuing
the tempo of fruit growth
supple forsaken crushes
the way you look at me
with all that juice
indeterminate variety
desiring more clusters
of possible kiss moments
the longest harvest season
of your life
being a little cherryish
cascade fruit truss
tender personality
masses and masses
a salad of us

Hormone Horticulture

Hormone Horticulture Poem

KHORA

Khora

On bearing the unbearable:
Ursula K. Le Guin says ‘it is a human thing to do to put something you want, because it’s useful, edible or beautiful, into a bag, or a basket’, to take this carrier home with you, ‘home being another, larger kind of pouch or bag, a container for people’.

I want to think of vessel as an (im)possible echo-space for bliss and becoming.

Collapsible, slouchy.

What I bring home from my art walks:

  • larva of an apple ermine moth (drawn by Annie Lord)
  • a piece of sewn red cloth
  • secondhand gilded Shakespeare
  • a stranger’s knitted square
  • a nest of messy notes
  • a water bottle pierced at the neck

in memory of stolen sleep

crescenting

Circles of multiple voices: the braid ones enter, overlap, recount their wandering. We pass around a bowl of wild brambles. I want to experiment with the jewelline smudge of gleaning and the passing back and forth of the fruit. Walking allows for the nomenclature of living: slowly, lonely, honing.

*

Later, I’m in the Craigintinny Community Garden eating Rosy Naylor’s rhubarb crumble, listening to the collecting percussion of containers. Tonya McMullen helps us hook bottles of rain to the plants via red cord pushed through tubes. These are makeshift arterial vessels (the garden is its own vascular system, alternately thriving/languishing).

Pulses of birdsong () throbbing soil () the cycle of weeping () weeding () quenching.

Teenagers drift in for nourishment, and Linda Furley, who runs the garden, has offers of fresh and mucky potatoes. These are taken home to grandmothers in the service of suppers of ‘magic chips’.

*

I don’t make it to the tour of Seafield Wastewater Plant because my body refuses to roll out of bed. I’m my own rivering. Napping all day with a flu, bleeding profusely, I dream of seedlings elongating from tiny pores in the shitstream, bright red tomato fruits drooping their weight in industrial dark. I draw a hole in the bed.

Moonpool

Moonpool: an opening in the base of a vessel designed to lower equipment into the sea. It may be used for marine drilling, but also salvage, exploring and recreation.

I perforate this _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ to let the water in.

We are such weepy receptacles!

Stray & cellular.

Sunday. Jenny Pope launches a bamboo and willow coracle. Bodies dip themselves in the sea. Bodies protect, try to predict. These vessels belong to many. Their insides a plush, recycled flesh of fabric. I sit on the sand and try to write how the people carry each other like so much water. Blue-lipped, kindly.

‘This is the writing I will carry in my body’, writes Bhanu Kapil, the diary of ‘everything that has happened and everything that has not happened yet’.

Water connects (excesses).

Braid sociality is poetic infrastructure.
It is vulnerable to unravelling; it revels in pattern.

I braid the waves / I braid the waves
as long as they’ll let me listen

Vessel is the hold space of soft bodies, buoyed up by stories. * Marathon encounters.

Slow-keening-postcard-lossy-the-breeze
-so-you’re-walking-

I dip my notes in the ocean situate
second

storm

temporal ringlets
hide in the culvert of old conversing
I run for late slow trains through the twilight summering
stray & cellular
larkiness
slipstitch the sea…………………………………………………………………………………………….

* One ankle deep in the sewage outfall of a time before,

four metres above normal

foraging therapy esoterica

of the blue

tremor cocoonery

lux

lux

oxidant

***

Maria Sledmere is an artist, writer and managing editor of SPAM Press. She is lecturer in English & Creative Writing at the University of Strathclyde and her latest poetry collection, Cinders, was recently published by Krupskaya Books. Other books include Woundscape (Osmosis Press, 2023), An Aura of Plasma Around the Sun (Hem Press, 2023), Cocoa and Nothing - with Colin Herd (SPAM Press, 2023), Visions & Feed (HVTN Press, 2022) and The Luna Erratum (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2021). In 2023, Maria was included in the Saltire Society’s ‘40 under 40’ list celebrating ‘outstanding Scottish creatives’.

***

Art Walk Projects is an artist-led organisation working collaboratively with artists, communities & audiences to create social place-centred projects & residencies based around Portobello and Edinburgh’s north eastern coast. We produce and deliver an annual contemporary arts festival ‘Art Walk Porty’ that entwines the local with the further afield, concentrated around a series of public realm curated works, and the celebration of the local creative community of Portobello.

www.artwalkporty.co.uk/
www.instagram.com/artwalkporty/