L’Embarquement pour ailleurs

      Everyone around me doggedly refuses to understand that I have never been able to live in the reality of things and people …


      Debussy – letter 8 July 1910, the piece L’Embarquement pour ailleurs still incomplete


I have joined the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, fee 1 shilling.

No boat needed and no history of a boat.


I am cast ashore, Emile, in Crail.

Crail – en Ecosse – my friend, a name like the scraping of stones

where the wind pushes me forward and the streets lean up to me.

Salt and seaweed, Emile, dampness and sand.


In the Society’s museum (a shed) I saw

an ancient oboe encrusted with snails.

What are we doing, my true friend, who Paris leans its ear to for something new?


I love the Scottish, they tack wonderfully between weariness and laughter and

I love this place because they can’t say my name.

My landlady called me ‘Mr French’ this morning which made me laugh.

I love their cleared-out rooted hearts, but am embarked for elsewhere again,

I’m sure of it. Dunkerque this time, perhaps. I will write again, I will.


There is something to be said for being marooned here.

I have decided to write a sonata for jittering, barnacled oboe and piano

though the pianist goes home early, quietly and nobody notices he’s gone.


Drenched last night, I still wander by the shingle

and am sitting on a bench now to continue this letter.

There is something sunken within me and dark and

I’m told I must go for long walks again

yet the sea untightens its vast grey grief

and lays down exhausted on the shore.