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.