Poems from the Coast | Sea State Martello by Daniel Wade

Poems from the Coast | A Maritime Poetry Series

The latest in our series of maritime inspired poems by Daniel Wade is a tribute to the iconic Martello towers dotted around the Irish coast, in particular to the one based in Sandycove and immortalised by the opening chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses. 

sea state martello daniel wade

Outside the James Joyce Tower at Sandycove

Sea State Martello

The span of bay is everywhere I look,

throbbing in heat, in kelp,

impossible to predict in its seasons. Dawn

is now under way. But from my granite gunrest,

self-pitying and unshaven,

a prince without sire or dominion eyes

the silvered sea. Thunderheads

amass northward, like a long-expected

invasion that will never arrive.


Only the Irish Sea is incoming: yacht

and ship stagger on her waves’ breaking

green, marked as the panther

and its sleeping pursuer.

It’s a blessing to live with such nearness

to water. But neither you, nor I,

nor anyone would dare call it ‘neighbour’.

It’s too noble for that, or any

other term of human endearment.


Below me are diving pools,

a stone’s throw of steps, swimmers

eeling in the late-noon tide.

My aslant windows sip sunlight;

night lamps grapple with the shade.

By the lifeguard’s hut, red flags flap

as if taunting the bull-headed sea.

A car ferry clears the harbour-mouth.


Home to amateur scholars and the eye-patched

crank who chose exile over the decorum

of classics, priestly sophism and opera-song,

I am a work of squat, defensive art,

cannon-proof and hounded by seagulls,

my throne the surf-bulleted rocks

while my weather-weary flag

lags in the grip

of dawn like a casualty.


Keep one eye seaward, always;

rain may muddy your sight like a blindfold.

Grey monsoons keep a civil distance.

It is the destiny of monuments

to be toppled,

groundswells to engulf them.

So, from the imperial keystone,

windworn as parapets, the sea state

rises to meet me, a pale fever.

Daniel Wade is a poet and playwright from Dublin, Ireland. He is a graduate of Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology where he studied English and Journalism.

Check out his website danielwadeauthor.com for more.

About the Author

Ann Robinson
Has a passion for coastal heritage and maritime history. Loves sharing the best of the Irish coast online. Contact me ann@coastmonkey.ie or follow me on Twitter @AnnRobinson22