Trawling for souls | Julie Maclean

after The Unthanks interpretation of ‘Shipbuilding’ by Costello and Langer


I want to thank them for tumbler pigeons 

nesting in the ribs of my history

           for drumming melancholy Sundays 

           into my heart before I had a heart 

           and knew what a heart was for


I want to thank them for whispering 

through vintage lips—

            the promise of a mother for an orphaned selkie

            the humble jazz of a shipwrecked father 

            for shivering loose the hunger then the floods


for peeling back the skin 

of an Elvis song to its heartbreak core

           for the first mackerel I ever hooked

           from a timber skiff in an oily drift— 

           the keen-eyed sheen, the reek of it, the blood


for a lungful of shanties, a swallow of cider

           a blackened room with nothing but ears

           for minor chords and elegies 

for sound waves lapping in simple time

           these raw, broken shores







Julie Maclean’s poetry, fiction and reviews have appeared in The Griffith Review, Kill Your Darlings, The Best Australian Poetry, Cordite Review, Island, Overland, Poetry (Chicago), Rabbit and Southerly. She is the author of four pamphlets and one full collection, When I saw Jimi.

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