George Neame: a poem

The Gospel of Guglielmo Marconi

At what frequency can your antennae detect

the murky garble of the sea? The living squabble about

politics and kingdoms but the dead speak only of

saltwater and sediment, of barnacles and brine.

The crack of static from your transmitter is audible for miles;

the voices of the drowned leap shorewards

in the electric jolt of a clothes line, then escape inland

through drain pipes and stove flues,

those being the least expected of methods. At your cottage,

the daily corpse broadcast muffles those famous

good wishes from Sandringham; a thousand transmissions

from transatlantic liners could not drown out the sermons

of the shipwrecked though you eavesdrop on stories

of how they out-drowned each other. This new radio of yours

never claimed the power to relay any supernatural sounds,

yet in the eye of a northeaster you can hear the creak

of the Sparrow-Hawk as it shifts in its sandy tomb or listen

to the crew of the Whydah as they trawl the ocean floor

for tide-scattered treasure. And who knows – maybe in return

your words might reach the scup-nibbled ears of whalemen

upended by a humpback in the 1820s, or lighthouse keepers

knocked off-balance in a late October gale.

I picture you as I might have found you in that tumbledown cabin,

monitoring four wooden transmitters above the

sand dunes at South Wellfleet and wondering

how you ever ended up here,

on a gusty cliff in Cape Cod,

tuning in to the whisper of dead air.

George Neame is a publisher of medical journals based in London, but who in recent years has lived in Yorkshire, Dublin and Tennessee. His poetry has previously appeared in Acumen, Antiphon, the Moth, and Ink and Sweat & Tears. In his spare time, he enjoys long walks, board games and exceptionally strong coffee.