“At Prospect Cottage” by Collin Kelley

       for Derek Jarman

September stone beach, where it’s always sweater weather, the gloom glare blinds, sky and sea merge. My feet sink in shingle, ankles turn. The spiral lighthouse and humming power station rise on the headland, and in the marshes three listening ears, massive acoustic mirrors aimed at the channel, bouncing sound waves from invading aircraft. Alien and alienating.

Derek saw beauty in the desolation, the quietest place in England, the opposite of London where the thrum of infected blood often pounded more loudly in his ears than the traffic. The prospect of writing one last film, one last poem, planting one last flower. The challenge of bloom in the rock – if he could make something grow here then anything was possible. Maybe another chance, another life. Opium poppy for pain, red valerian for insomnia, devil’s-bit for coughs and fevers.

Attached to the cottage’s southern wall, along tarred notebook planks, Donne’s “The Sunne Rising” admonishing the light for disturbing lovers lounging in bed. I picture Derek on hospital day-release tending the forget-me-nots as his world turned blue then black, his nose still sharp for green santolina, Mrs. Sinkins pinks and the honey scent of gorse drifting over Dungeness.

Twenty years since he succumbed, the same year Uncle Terry shook off flesh gravity, I lean against the weathered boat and remember them both. In my pocket, a smooth pebble and fading bloom, something to take home for worry and press, my souvenirs from the place Derek called paradise.


Collin Kelley’s latest poetry collection, Midnight in a Perfect World, has just been published by Sibling Rivalry Press. His other collections include Better To TravelSlow To Burn and the American Library Association-honored Render. Kelley is also the author of the acclaimed Venus Trilogy of novels – Conquering VenusRemain in Light and Leaving Paris – also from Sibling Rivalry Press.