from The Small Mercies
‘Matched residues of love.’
Just so, we would be moving on
in solitude and isolation,
through fringes of low-tide lagoon
where the Desert Island Discs
theme composed by Eric Coates
hung in the air, like a charm.
Crying All Day
Work constraints released
and diurnal round eased,
as on a Bix Beiderbecke side
suddenly tears at random,
seemingly reasonless, come
with a rising tide –
like place-holders for the lost time
on this cluttered littoral
or fish-dock-smelling harbour wall.
No more complaints about complaining,
no more complaining of complaints
at West Bay’s cliff, its crenellations,
like a vast-shadowed sandcastle
besieged too by the waves …
Here even seagulls, well behaved,
beachcomb in the shallows
stumbling on things as if to let
the likes of me forget.
From gallery space at the Albert Dock
I look down on red cobblestones,
bollards, lock gates, harbour walls,
reminded of the stateless persons
who clutched their Nansen passports
on a Cunard White Star liner,
Piet Mondrian aboard.
the leaving’s a-grieving, but my thoughts
of the Arandora Star, torpedoed,
its exiled alien passenger list –
all those whose final sight of land
had been this homely shore.
From a Train
What’s there in the back of my mind
comes to the fore as a wailing sound
from mudflats all along the Dee
with frustrations of a coastline,
wherever the shrubs, bluffs, bungalows
are blotting out a sea horizon,
as on childhood holidays
when straining for a glimpse of bays
at Harlech, Conwy, Anglesea,
or the Llŷn Peninsular, that last of mine …
Coming on landscape unawares
round blind corners, searching
for the coast paths’ don’t-go-theres
of houses in their niches
and mineshafts, you would stumble on
residues of natural riches …
At Nanven, signs warn not to steal
from the storm-heaped stones.
Beyond air-holes, catastrophes,
riddled by light, we’d reach
at least to rumoured sea coves’,
hauntings of past loves.
That one lost ghost on its horizon
held my past in sole possession;
but here beside the Helford River
where land drops steeply to the sea,
now I cling to you on cliffs
edging along above Falmouth Bay
as currents of talk over wrack and rock
or others’ children wreaking havoc
banish it away.
Clouds ranged over its estuary,
their shadows shifting on the sea
and wind farms in horizon haze
turned blades or were as oddly still
as model aeroplanes.
Dispersed along the strand, we missed
stirrings in that fierce headwind –
what of language, person, coast
our restless internationalist
stood braced to leave behind.
Now I’m watching breakers
push a rusted micro-wave
up the bank of Chesil Beach
with hissing sounds, its shingle
in relentless, fearsome foam,
and, as if what it deserves,
white goods from someone’s home
tumbled, tumbled in the waves.
As once, a pure ablution
round earth’s human shores
becomes the sounds of waves
breaking, pebbles’ roars,
and a vortex of its waters
silvers this whole cove.
A dog howls at a smuggler’s
moon, so chance would have it,
and an owl to-wit to-wooing
joins in chorus as its light
strikes ceilings, human forms,
with that one star above.
From a headland’s viewing platform,
we stare out at the sulky islands
on towards Brownsea, contre-jour,
and, overclouded, yacht marinas.
Ghost-thoughts of a Cold War nightmare
at Portsmouth dockyard, Chichester,
abruptly stop our dwell-time dream
and leave the long drive home.
(listening to Albéniz)
Seen from Éstacion Maritima
there’s an old tramp steamer,
and memories of cargo boats
are somehow coming back to me …
Although I’ve never been, somehow
a piano’s rising intervals
lift spirits like that glimpsed gull’s
glide, a drifter’s helm and compass,
orange floats sewn onto nets
and all in earshot of the sea.