For J.M.S.

i) Littoral

Something about the unsettled merge
at the lip of the land, the restless shift of
water-light, the glancing energy, the faint chloric
‘nose’ of seepage, and renewal, is what matters
to us now. Ten thousand years, westering, we
traced the shoreline; the first true Pelagians,
winkling soft provender from sluiced cranny
and shoal; mollusc, cowrie, dulse and quick, jointed,
finny things, that are made and taste
of sea. The constant hunger driving us.

ii) The Weir of Orinsay

The clatter of his loom falls quiet. He stands
on the shore, stands a long time, leans on a forked
pole, his shadow turning behind him. He watches
the shingle break, like fish scales, glinting.
Under the steep ground, the slow tide filters through
a barrage of boulderstone and kelp. Low water: a
Black-back, and two smaller gulls come down,
eyeing the white sand, shellfish, urchins, corals,
of lythe-fish, saithe, eel, or sea trout: not a sign.
The weaver decides to leave them to it, this time.

iii) At Huishinish

A diamond sky, and a savage wind cutting in from
St. Kilda, drives shell-sand, jet-streaming
up the Machair. We furl dry grass and heather,
into a narrow stone gully, roof it with splints
from a busted herring box and two beaten larch
Third match, it smokes, then roars into fire. A feast
of easy pickings: fat cockles, blue mussels dashed
through bright surf. In the bubbling skillet, they
gape on a bed of wild thyme and green wrack.
We are at home, on the far edge of the world.

iv) From Atlantis

Three times this winter, they closed the wall
to turn a wrecking tide. Now, with the storm
gone down, I pick along the strand at Walberswick
with Jessie May. We find a tree that is both old and
young, thrown up from Atlantis. The pickled wood
is softish pine, its root, a leafy clutch of forest loam;
we finger it, hoping for some sign, a pupal case,
a carapace, a tool, an amber tear perhaps, left
petrified where the old Neanderthalers roamed,
before their world was swallowed by the sea.

Footnote: Strandloopers -Originally, a Pleistocene species of hominid, native to coastal South Africa subsisting on the sea. More lightly used these days to denote beachcombers, among whom so many poets are numbered. See Kenneth White; “At The Atlantic Edge.” (Sanstone Press)


First published in Other Poetry Magazine.