Praise Poem for the Sea
I write in praise of the suck
and undertow of waves on shingle,
I write in praise of the grey-green
merge of water into sky,
I write in praise of its iron will, its urge
to drag and pull every small thing in.
I write in praise of its kissing
and tangling love for the wind,
of its teeth carving out caves
and hacking into cliffs. I write
in praise of the sea and the songs
of gulls, terns, kittiwakes, fisherman
and sailors’ wives keening unheeded.
I write in praise of it leaving me, stripped
to the bone, by the outgoing tide, polished,
transfixed, just another white stone.
I write until the paper blows away,
the pencil breaks, my hair whips
across my face – like a torn plastic bag
on a driftwood branch, my salt-cracked
lips split, my voice lost to the wind.
When she phoned, she said you were outside
watching a bat track its nightly flight-path
between shed and porch, playing a solo,
call and response, always the same trajectory.
We had to work it, she and I, like the weave
of the log basket; in and out, to seem
like it was your idea. We held you easily
between us, your old weight desiccated.
In time, you let me in and we sat
in the conservatory, listening to the trapped
buzz of a bumblebee, while rabbits invaded
the polytunnel, ragwort spread in the veg patch.
But at least the grass is cut, you said,
at least I’ve managed that.
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