Friday, May 3, 2013


In the cave he arranges her limbs to kneel on a bed of small, polished stones.
It's an undersea smell, they say, briny, like the inside of a sea shell and slightly fecal to begin with, studded with buttons of squid bones. It will mature to become grainy, musky and precious for its rarity. To verify, heat a needle above a flame and slide it into the waxen flesh. The smoke will be white and sublime in fragrance. Miraculous.

He places her limbs, he directs her to her knees. Her arms are goosepimpled but the long planes of muscle each side of her spine are smooth. She is sharpened into living, pulsing and warm, fluid, as her head and her hair fall back onto his shoulder.
Are you okay? Are you alright on these stones?
Oh yes.
Stones thrown up from the belly of the sea, rained down from the heavens, jewelled conglomerates of shells and lime blast-hardened into calcite, the basalt ballast of long-wrecked ships, the smooth pebbles of coal.

They are mere flesh amongst the stones. From behind her he can see out of the cave, opening like an eye, to the island. The island is the eye's grey green pupil. It's domed like a leviathan rising and crowned in barnacle boulders.
Their boots water bottles bags clothes orange peel with the stickers still on, are scattered all around. She smells like an animal, tastes like the inside of a shell. It is time for her to smile at his big freckled shoulders crouching between her knees. She reaches up her arms, places her hands flat on the ceiling of the cave. Gasps in delight.

Meteors shower at the sides of her eyes. Her vision sparkles at the moment when his pores burst sweet sweat. He whispers things, songs, oaths to her. She can't decipher his words, nor he hers, over the roar of the surf running up the ferny reef to their door. What they experience is so exquisite it is supposed to be dirty. It is said to be wrong ... but ... that the incorruption of this most fragrant ambergris should be found in the heart of such decay; is this nothing? *
She brings the wind and the undersea. He brings chocolate and the petite mort of dawn before the livening of birds. There is the sea, there is the island, there is the cave - and here are their clothes scattered all around.

*Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Vintage Classics, p. 456.


  1. OMG I was reading that as yours. I was pretty impressed. I've never read Moby Dick. Perhaps I should.
    Speaking of classics I have just read Hemingway's Farewell to Arms for the first time. Someone gave it to me as it's set in northern Italy and Veneto in places. What a strange experience. It's written in such an unusual style. Full pages of uninterrupted dialogue and so much repetition in the conversational slabs. I found it almost disconcerting. I finished it but if I had picked it up as a contemporary novel I would not have.

  2. OMG that is mine :~)
    "that the incorruption of this most fragrant ambergris should be found in the heart of such decay; is this nothing?" Now THAT is Melville.
    I will tidy up my footnoting ...

    Haven't read that Hemingway, either. I will have to have a crack at it one day.

  3. Just just just beautiful...........I always want to ask the question but it's none of my business: real or imagined or a bit of both. Naughty of me l know....

  4. Thanks Michelle.
    The subtitle to the blog is a good place to start. Take the ripping yarn and weave it into the centre. Take the home truth and weave it into the centre, take the beautiful lie and weave it into the centre. Repeat until you have plaited yourself a tyger tale.
    Does that help?

  5. There was a competition amongst some journalists here recently, to sum up famous books in one sentence. The winner summed up Moby Dick in one word which could not be mistaken for any other book - "Whale". That's what I call economy.

  6. Yes.
    Most classics should be able to be summed up in a single word, don't you think?
    All Quiet on the Western Front.
    The Plague.

    Um ... I'm wandering now because I think the Plague is also about existentialism. Commenters are welcome to contribute!

    1. 50 Shades of Grey - sex. The Story of 'O' - sex. Lolita - sex. I can't think of any others, but I'm sure there must be.

    2. Shit, okay. Step up Sarah.
      The Story of O? Yes Tom.
      Lolita? Banned.
      50 Shades? Have not read it due to feeling snooty but reviews/gossip/intuition/era ...

  7. H'mm I awoke with a yearning, an ache for Hake the fish with a subtle flavour and now I have just read your titillating tale !

  8. There's a poem in that somewhere Mr Heron

  9. I'm a sloppy reader. Sorry. Obviously you're bettrer than Melville.

  10. Mm... I don't have his endurance, unfortunately!