This poem from Legion is called 'Finisterre'.


That slim isthmus where one sea beats on the southern shore,
another sea at the northern, is called by sailors and strangers Finisterre
or, sometimes, Terra Nada. It was there,
on that cold strip of rock and broom and bright rag-weed that four
hundred were run to ground,
motherless sons, widowers, the orphans of orphans, their gear
tossed on the tide or lost to the offshore wind.

So much for gyromancy, so much for prayer.

We went there next morning, the weather holding clear,
and made a ring, the faint-hearted hand-in-glove with the blind.
It wasn’t long before one of the women claimed to hear
a difference in the gulls’ cries, something raw,
full-throated, a note so thick with fear
it took her breath and brought her to her knees. The air
was full of it then – everyone heard it clear,
or said they did, and stood in awe
to be there as the legend rose and formed,
the skirl of the dead in our ears, their silt still on the sand.

from Legion (Faber, 2005), © David Harsent 2005, used by permission of the author and the publisher

David Harsent in the Poetry Store

The free tracks you can enjoy in the Poetry Archive are a selection of a poet’s work. Our catalogue store includes many more recordings which you can download to your device.