Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘Bejewelled Skeleton’ and other poems by Bill Arnott

By: Bill Arnott

Bejewelled Skeleton

Northwest Cornwall, a mild Tuesday in March

Carbis Bay – Hayle Towans
waves wash, shucked oyster brine aroma
gannets glide, acrylic daubs in white
crushed bivalves underfoot
glint of stucco flecked with glass
cuttlefish and jellies, puddles of grape jam

one thousand gritty, crunching miles
on tattered trail shoes, endless more
in damp and ripened fleece
with wafting whiffs of watery dog
on fifty stretching pitches worth of sand
separating here from there

sudsy trim embroiders surf tinged emerald
beach crimped in cobblestones
treacle, amber, onyx
separated stainless sky, a rip
through tattered clouds, patched and sewn in topaz

charcoal caves face foreshore
hollow socket stare
seep foamy tears
silent, sightless sighs
what secrets have you witnessed
unable to describe in technicolor?

one I long to hear, to know
the story of the spectre ship
having found its partial skeleton
where crumbling granite cliff
and sandstone bleeding iron
front receding water

partially buried remains emerge from shallow grave
metal rib, one shoulder blade, jut from pooling beach
corroded headstone, afterthought
wrapped in bull kelp shawl
another type of seagrass, the look of mermaid hair
pigtail braided samphire, delicate green bow

I’ve stumbled on a gift-wrapped grave
cemetery plot for floundered ship, murdered just offshore
by storm and reef and negligence a century-and-a-half ago

succumbing in this stretch of sea
these steely broken bones
thrown ashore, thrust themselves

right here

chose final resting place, stone’s throw
from sandcastle foundations
remaining until now

open ended mystery, I’m left to wonder
what’s being shared, calling out
what am I meant to see

in this barnacle crusted bit of boiler
piece of tempered anchor
chunks of the forgotten, resembling

severed limbs discarded by a tomb?


Falmouth in Bronze

A yawn from gaping Carrack Roads
Little Falmouth gleaming proud
here in Penryn swirling cloud winks sunlight
into slowest pulsing strobe
slate nimbus fat with rain – a glitter ball
rippled river, moving dance floor
swans self-aware, pair off, shake tails, neck
beak to beak, an alabaster heart

I cross the floor, hike mud around a headland
to the site of Mylor’s hoard where sod and peat
spat Bronze Age weaponry and tools
patina gristle left to rot for centuries
one’s passed to me, I lift it up
in delicate white gloves

four thousand years suspended in my palms

malachite, a shade of Asian jade
alchemy from artisans
knapped in DNA and time

I’m there, both here, and now
a Tardis in this implement
I’m holding like my firstborn
cradled with a reverie I can’t articulate

knowing I have held this once before


Impressionist Landscape, Scored Culinary Sky

Cézanne, Matisse – desert horizon, blurs of camouflage heat

By Dali’s hand, crucified saguaro slumps, spiky cross
life dissipates in pulpy drips
striking sand with momentary sizzles
madman twisting moustache on the fly, silent movie villain
spies his wife, her lover, smears oily lust on canvas.

Picasso’s blue-rose-crystalline frontier, suspended eyes –
pared moon and low slung Venus hung in velvet gloaming
fluid brush tai chi, single stroke
Pamplona streets turn to turbid labyrinth
preludes chaos, midday blood – ole!


Swirl of funneled desert dirt
lazy bouncing tumbleweed
lyric ball bounds across the screen
whistles in a rising wind
settling a Morricone score.

Vista: bowls, pyramids, ingredients of sunset sky
cumin, cayenne, cinnamon – chilli dusting hues
nutmeg, saffron, turmeric. Suspend
a stifled sneeze above sautéed horizon
cast iron anvil cloud, stewing, brewing storm explodes
lightning chiffonades dried foliage, mustard ground left scorched
obsidian, black serving glass, wrapped in canvas, plated
painted desert cassoulet, simmering curry sky.



4th and Pine

Pacific Northwest gray, well into Fall
I’m on foot
setting slivers of sun force their way
through cast iron, a sympathy card sky

and then from nowhere an explosion –

murmuration blazes overhead
twisting, twirling
starlings in hundreds of thousands
Fantasia flamenco swirls
nothing in nature could possibly happen
in this harmonic magnitude
without the voice of Attenborough
yet here it is, between skyscrapers
in swooping synchronization

rush-hour commuters, walkers, cyclists
we all stop dead, a quarter million of us
we’re witness at this moment
to something extraordinary

and we stand, gawk skyward
like an alien invasion film
when the mother ship descends
blackening metropolis sky
thousands of strangers united
in a colossal event
beyond comprehension
binding us inextricably


watching these birds
in unified formation
defying sense of time

eventually, the swarm moves on
tornado blur of iridescent black
to dissipate, or not

the rest of us still stand

staring skyward


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