Tides

Spray stings our eyes.
Crouched by the sea wall
we watch the waves break,
creamy, hissing, as they
rake back pebbles with a sound
like thousands clapping.

Later, fought to a finish,
the undertow retreats,
the sea smooths out its folds,
finds equilbrium
like wine poured in a glass.

Baked in sunlight
the harbour stinks of weed,
dead fish, marine oil.
Gulls strut the mud
like greedy pillagers after battle.

The beach is blank
scraped clean
blanching at each step.
Later it will be a palimpsest of stories –
a dog’s paws printed shallower
and wider as it runs;
a sandcastle, untenanted
and fallen into disrepair –
and gulls’ webs pressed like leaves
into the sand.

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Pooil Vash

For twenty years I lived on the Isle of Man, an island thirty miles long and about fifteen wide, set in the Irish Sea. The sheep outnumbered its human inhabitants, or it seemed that way. It is a place of big skies, storms that shake the houses, and summer days when the island basks in the sunlight like a cat.

This poem is about  the no-mans land which lies between the land and the sea – the caves and rocks which still contain remnants of the past.

Pooil Vash

Where the waves have worn
a ragged gash into the cliff.

You can get there at low tide,
feel the sand sink
under your feet, climb rocks
slimed with weed.

Inside, gravel rasps under each step,
sunlight, ambered by the cracked sky,
dribbles down broken strata
to glimmer on the pool beneath.

They find bones here, sometimes, skulls
split like broken eggs
and chipped flints, light as leaves,
sharp enough to slice a vein
or scrape a fleece.

The half dark smells of wrack
and sulphur, seep and rot –
the slow stink of creation.

 

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