• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 12
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Image in Gallery C

1st October

To Museum Staff,

          I write concerning one of the images on show in Gallery C. By recollection, the fourth image in, as you enter the gallery from the café end.

          The picture is currently labelled ‘Girl Lying on a Beach’. This is wrong. You have the image upside down.

          In my long study of Eastern mysticism, I have seen such images before. If you rotate the piece 180 degrees you will see. A girl lifted above snow-capped mountains. Lifted in enlightenment. Pure, clean, complete.

          I suggest you correct the display.

          Yours,

                    -------------

1

Tango

She said she wanted to die by the ocean which is why they had to live in the city. They both understood that – they had no savings. They had a flat near Bellas Artes and they were proud of their balcony on which neither fit standing because they’d grown lettuce and tomatoes, life despite all the grey air, and they got the morning sunshine and they talked, so much talking, and it always felt good because no matter what happened at work: the unravelling of the moon in the lines of a friend’s hand, or the way kids now wore headphones to shut him off in the metro... Conversations would end with her predicting an eternity by the seaside.

So one day, the grey air in the grey morning or the grey afternoon (it was too grey to tell) took hold of their balcony and he’d said it was fine because they’d soon retire and leave. It will be great, he’d said, because his fingers hurt, music hurt, and she’d said, Maybe now, now you have moons in your hands too. Time to retire.

But as soon as she’d said that, he was okay again, and he played her a tango real loud, one that said that people can’t retire, they just stop getting paid. She hated him, sometimes, hated his tangos, boleros, cuecas, his guitar, his voice and his hands, him. But the sea! It would make them good again. And he’d stop playing his fucking tangos, wouldn’t he? And she would never again have to pretend to see the stars in the tired hands of her friends who were always waiting to be old to wait to feel young.

Next morning, she’d decided to tell him just that. But he’d left. He’d even taken the lettuce. He’d left her his tango records, which she played every night for months after that. Until, for no good reason, the music stopped, she learnt to read her own hands and soon forgot him.

Read more >
2

Ashore

When you show me this picture later, I say what a fine composition. The human particle in all that artfulness, somehow unhoused. The drone was how high? No matter, we can zoom in, examine the androgynous figure: limbs casually arranged, the modern attire, cut-off jeans, the thin ambiguous frame asleep at rest marooned drowned on its lace doily rubbed round by the sea, lunar, and planetary. With the sum of this artifice touched by the delicate fan of an ebb tide, in all its webbed magnificence.

Let us call this particle Icarus, washed up on this very shore with his filigree of melted wax, sodden feathers. The sea on a whim has offered him, his symmetry of wings sun-scored to a honeycomb, drowned feather barbs threaded with sea greens, his own spine dissecting all, holding fast to the memory of his father’s splendid architecture.

It is then, the old hard story that is ever with us: how he and his father fled from the wrath of their tyrant king, launching themselves from the sands of Crete, in darkness, with no provisions. How their method of travel was makeshift, fragile, relying on the kindness of the wind gods. How fortune gave them a sky with a sickle moon and Polaris to steer by the first night. How the next day threatened rain to soak their feathers and drag them out of the sky, how lack of food and water eroded their strength. How the boy, after a second interminable night working his arms to exhaustion alongside his father, soared when the sun rose, dazzled by its light and heat.

We too have soared, fallen, grazed our hearts and drowned. Impossible then, to chide the boy for his giddiness, in light of the crimes of his king, or to chide Daedalus for his desire to save his son.

Read more >
3

Mystery Date

The allure of Tim’s mystery weekend date is enough for me to fly out to hot and sultry Costa Rica from northern California’s bone-chilling fog.

My boyfriend’s packing list for me is short — bathing suit, gauzy cover-up caftan, hat and sandals. I am so excited! I’ve been reading about Pacific beach resorts dotted with coconut palms.

Tim's considered driving in Central America — a gringo’s rite of passage — so he’s rented 4-wheel drive Jeep equipped with a bilingual GPS.

Early Friday afternoon our plane touches down in San José, and Tim and I head west from the city to the port town of Puntarenas, with our chatty señorita GPS companion. “¡Cuidado! Stray cattle crossing road — drive carefully.”

After a scenic 3-hour drive, Tim pulls to the side of the road in Cabuya. I spot the giant! No, it’s not a huge person. When I first see the knotted and twisted towering strangler fig tree, I think what a fascinating specimen.

With openhearted curiosity, I stand under the eighty-year-old Matapalo, a giant banyan tree, and meditate. Listening to the enchanting sounds of chirping birds and howler monkeys, I feast my eyes on the intricate latticework wrapped around the host tree trunk. Mother Nature works in mysterious ways. The strangler fig tree is left with a hollow trunk chock full of nooks and crannies for bats, snakes, rodents, birds and other creatures.

“What an awesome mystery date, Tim!”

“The beach awaits,” he says, taking hold of my hand.

4

How she calls

She thirsts for me
and she calls,

whispers my name –
      come dance,

sometimes loud –
      come dive,

sometimes soft –
      come breathe.

Lapping with little slappings
to suggest, persuade,

she draws the undertow
so I feel the overthrow

arriving and departing
leaving and returning,

spreading her susurration
far away and close by

turn by turn
tide by tide

surge and suck,
pull in, come swim,

      dance in me,
so calls mother sea.

5

I Tremble

My fingers tremble
in presence of some people

people
whose presence
breaks me down like the
grammar of a language
half-learnt

learning
uneasy learning
like getting sogged
in sand-water

water
trembles with my touch
like a tilted painting
hung on the blades of the shoulder

of people in whose presence
I tremble

I tremble
like a disembowelled fish
on hot oil
slippery with its personal
life-less-ness

Read more >
6

Whimbrel

We were only kids the last time we went to the beach together. We ran at the oncoming waves full-speed, and our hands touched, I remember. Our mother slept with a book in her hands.

Waves look like the past and move like the future.

You had short, blonde hair. Our mother’s hair was greying, she said it was from hard work—our father said then his hair would be the greyest thing there was.

Here come the memories, which only ever carry me to two destinations: the last time I ever saw your face, and the last time I ever saw you alive.

The waves aren’t strong enough to knock me over, but they disrupt my balance, sitting in water up to my belly button. I remember how long my hair is when it reaches the water. In the summer it turns blonde, like yours. I remember once you said that if you ever died you’d want us to do something epic with your body, like push it out into a lake on a canoe and light it on fire, in the middle of the night, and I said I’d want the same thing. It occurs to me that if we tried that here, at the beach, the waves would decide where you went. You might wash ashore thirty yards away, the boat might topple. It seems silly, now, to think about what I’d want done with my dead body.

When I stand up my butt is sore. I don’t want to be here when the sun sets and the mothers start calling after their children. I watch a whimbrel run up toward the water as it ebbs away, darting after a small meal burrowing into the wet sand. As the next wave comes in, the whimbrel retreats before being swept away, prey held tight in its beak. I look one last time at the ocean before heading home.

7

from The Dream of Icarus

And in the waves I see the shadow of my fear
eeling its way towards the shore
seething with fish that would populate

the ocean in my head      the sea that suspends me
between the dream of rising and the nightmare
of the fall

            As honeysuckle breathes into the night

a handful of sand runs through my fingers
sand into sand
I pick at a fig seed lodged between my teeth

8

Beachcombing

I walked down here, but you'll not see the tracks:
the wind came and stole away my footprints,
blew the dust off my memory of sex,
tore my libido from out of its splints.

Here, where only the sun will know my name,
I am not afraid to show her my thighs
after years of avoiding tan, too shamed
to drop towel and fawn under foreign skies.

Now, I am remembering fingertips
tracing upwards, nails catching on tights,
waiting for the weight of your eclipse
to drown out all other worldly delights.

If I get too afraid of what I crave,
I'll hide in the water under a wave.

9

She Almost Made It

Under the oceans the downward pulse
of decay and wars from surface earth
reached the wise women of Atlantis
and they could bear no more.

The Mother called the coven-sisters
and stroked the green tendrils of each bent head.
'One of you must go,' she said, 'before we all end.'
The Chosen One must take wisdom
to the benighted hearts of human women
who resigned she-strong-power to wanton men.

Anemone prostrated herself before the Beloved
and she offered to be the messenger,
knowing she could never go back home.
Her last lover had died in the ice of Winter Waters
and now she wished to make her grief-sacrifice.

Mother prepared her and passed on all she knew
in seven days and seven nights of water wake.
On the eighth day Anemone swam from the deep,
transformed into a land-woman of strangeness
and bold, becalmed beauty, but
as she regained her breath
she saw a mushroom cloud
and blinded she knew
she was too late.

10

A Love Letter

This is for every one of you, I make no exceptions. But will you pay attention? Will you think about me when I make a small gesture like this? When I’m not whipping up winds to send you hurricanes? When I’m not making the seas surge to send you tsunamis? When I’m not so enraged I have to send you an earthquake?

It’s a treasured memory, this postcard I've sent you. It comes from a time when a man was thinking about life on other planets and that got him thinking about life on earth. Lying there on his earth-round earth-coloured towel, he realised that every living thing depends on every other living thing. He came up with a theory (which many of you still disagree with) but he hasn’t stopped working and he’s been broadcasting on my behalf. But his theory doesn’t conform to any known mathematical theory so it’s easy for you to dismiss. But he never stops, this man. He was born in 1919 and he’s still going, because I need him. Because you won’t pay attention.

You get and you keep and you love (each other but not me) and you sleep. You see and you hear so very little else. But, just eleven of your years ago, this man warned you that I will take my revenge if you don’t stop damaging the place you call home. He warned you that I won’t be able to continue my balancing act on your behalf. So stare at my postcard, look into that clear blue-green sea, stare down at the man on that clean beach and think about me, my dears.

With love, Gaia

11

On the beach

the sun has climbed higher
into the blasted biosphere,
eradicated clouds
until the elastic sky is almost sheer
and seems about to tear.

She’s a bikini clad exclamation mark
suspended in tumbled caramel sand.
Black insect-eyed
sunglasses leave imprints on her face;
she simmers, teasing a tide
of green wavering lace,
with just a hint of blue –

or is it tempting her to dive,
escape the radioactive sunset?

12

Flotsam

Next, I was buried
deep under water
dark and grey

and I sank darkly, a leaden weight gripped,
dragged down by an ankle

I felt the night
part and fold back
over my head

and my ears rang with the tympanic surge
yet death would not come.

I held out my hand
for you, and your clasp
was all that kept me here

your hand, until I begged you for release,
to leave me with the flotsam.

13

There, where the edge froths and the limits cannot be seen

Then, there had been the weight of it. Lifting, pushing, pulling. To be carried along, drifting in ebbs and swells, to descend, ascend, this was what it meant to be alive. A movement through blue. Light shifting from black to silver. Gold glancing from above. The sea, a cathedral.

Above, the lure of something warm. A push and a pull which also lifted. Surface ripples, the roil of the ocean, jittering through jellied translucence. The wash ashore, a shudder, then an ease of water and wave. Then a lulling of sorts.

And there, where the edge froths and the limits cannot be seen, is a vastness which cannot be breached. A line in the distance shimmering its farewell. A sing-song of voices, prodding and poking. A withering in the heat, the light. And then, that push and pull again.

No flow. Just ebb.

14

Beached

Hear my heart turning
tides, reckless
and sunbaked.

My blood is an ocean
of green and white
waves, translucent, thin,

while threads of our life
cling to the grainy sand
only to be ripped away,

sucked out to somewhere
else. And I am left
with your lies and salty tears,

awash in memories and pain
until even the sea
has a change of heart

and turns its back on me.
The sand makes its claim;
we merge particle to particle.

15

St John the Divine and the sea

sea of glass — that’s it
no marvels — no harps of God
just a chill mirror
reflecting past being &
future nothingness

St John the Divine
most likely envisioned the
same inscape as me
but his mythology ran
to angelic harpists — not

fast food machines stood
around corporate lobbies
selling cheap consolation

16

Monster Under the Bed

Cat-like, the ocean stretched out its paw, pulled back its foam-edged coverlet from the bed to reveal dusty tendrils of spume, filigree wisps hiding the monster beneath. Slowly, it tugged a little harder, saw the monster was one of that race that always took but so rarely gave. The ocean stared at this one, now caught, oblivious, by its beady eye. One on its own was not a threat but millions, billions together … that was another thing. The ocean, however, believed in the long-game, stalked its prey one step at a time, one human—one monster—at a time. It released its paw, allowed the salty blanket to roll back … and shroud the one of many.

17

Delicate Pastures

You want the waves to take you,
grasp the frail bones of your ankles
and pull you into delicate pastures.
The soft stones of the ocean wait
patiently to soothe your feet,
but the season of fire has you
shackled and buried in blistering sand.
You are alone with your assailant,
waiting for his glimmer to dull.
You will strike when the moon
takes breath, severing your manacles
in the welcome chill of the sea.

18

Bermuda Bound? Glasgow G3

Diaphanous cropped top,
eye-catching waves pattern;
incoming foamy tide, bikini-
ready, suntanned abdominals;
decorative navel piercing –
silver lady design adds to
idyllic desert island setting/
illusion, impression, deception, chimera.
Caribbean queen on a Bermuda beach?
No; Kelly-Marie in the kitchen, making tea.
Finnieston crane, Armadillo, Clyde glimpsed
from rainy Glasgow high-rise tower window.

19

My Happy Place

I've often longed to find this:
sun, sky and sea in perfect harmony.
Gossamer waves spread their net
of mutual co-ordination.

My Creator makes his presence felt
in whims of the tide
and each granule of sand
resting under an expecting sun.

The shadow of the infinite plays, godlike,
on my smooth, brown skin.

20

Celestial Bingo

It was a typically mundane day for Xavier in department X23-6. His slumped demeanour mirrored his mental state. His ergonomically designed chair annoyed him for not being more slouch-aware. The word "ergonomic" annoyed him. He was generally annoyed. Even so, he couldn't argue against the splendid views from his glass cubicle. No one had ever argued against a view and won. Views were too crafty.

Xavier's job was to keep an eye on several islands in the South Pacific region. More specifically, he was tasked with keeping an eye on grid reference X26 and whatever islands happened to exist at the current moment in the earthly stream of time (typically referred to as "now" in the fourth dimension). Fortunately for Xavier, he was not subject to the oppressively boring rules of four dimensions. To Xavier, time was like a piece of string that had a personality complex: absurd.

Xavier was a demi-god in training. He had been in training for a couple of millennia now although time didn't really mean much here. A billion years were much the same as a few hours from Xavier's point of view. "Generally pointless" was his opinion of fourth dimensional time, whenever the topic came up at the weekly bingo game for celestial staff.

As we gaze upon Xavier "now" (we are compelled to use quote marks here to indicate the absurdity of referring to time within the celestial realm) we can see him looking down upon his allotted grid reference X26. Now, I must confess that grid reference X26 is not called X26 at all. In fact, its real name comprises of a complex, seven dimensional algorithmic equation which is unintelligible to the human mind.

"How's it going Xavi?" came a voice from the edge of Xavier's cubicle.

"Hey Jarred, not bad. You?"

Read more >
21

TURNING TIDE

Fresh is the wind, though a bit chilly and cold,
Does good to the mind, the sea, I’ve been told.

The boat is dragged up high on the beach,
The last of the tourists have departed;
No crumbs to scavenge the gulls would screech
And scatter by the time winter gets started.

A primordial shade the water would take,
The unspeckled sky an azurer hue;
Lying on the beach I shall make and remake
A pattern with impermanence as the clue.

Green is the sea – roaming much – I’ve come to,
Blue and green memories I shall nurse;
Surrender some to the waves if I’ve to
Just so the past doesn’t turn to a curse.

22

You

I am washed
Upon the shore
My heart broken
Face torn

My will is weak
Cannot sleep
Cannot eat

The waves remind me
Of your eyes
Torturing my soul
Like your lies

All I want
All I need
Taken away
Out to sea

Though your love
Was not true
All I want is
All I need is
You

23

Shorefood

Good evening, madam. Welcome to the Shark Tank. Did you have a reservation? Excellent, right this way. Not at all, we’re accustomed to accommodating quite large shivers. We do have a private inlet, but I’m afraid it’s reserved for gams of 40 or more.

Now, can I get you started with something to drink? We have a lovely Californian, if you’re interested in something extra special. Quite light, aged in blond caskets, of course, only the finest, with nicely balanced red and white cell counts, and a long platelet finish. Highly recommended. We also have the standard old world Mediterranean options, a sweet Italian, perhaps? Or a nice dry German? Ah, a Red Sea red. Excellent choice. Last year was an exceptional season for snorkelers.

Our specials this evening include an aged wetsuit, left to bob and drift for a week, stuffed with bluefin and krill, served on a bed of surfboard. Or if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, we have a school of live mackerel, presented just there, in that eddy on the left-fin side, and of course you can hunt and catch them yourself. We do charge by the pound.

Last but not least, there is our famous sunbather special. The best thing on the menu, in my opinion. But I should warn you, it can take up to an hour to prepare. It all depends on the tide. Yes, if you lift your head just above the waterline, you’ll be able to see him, just there, in the distance. Notice that heat shimmer? Nicely suntoasted, lightly washed in Pacific saltwater, wrapped in white Egyptian cotton and blue nylon with just a hint of spandex. Served on a bed of terrycloth and organic coastal seasand. I recommend you try him very rare. We can let him lie a bit longer, yes ma’am, a bit redder and crispier, if you prefer. But it’s quite a delicate balance. He’s presented just at the edge of the high-water line, you see, so the saltwater doesn’t swamp the other flavors. We have to snatch him just as the first wave washes over. Quite so, madam, timing is everything. Read more >

24

Beach Combings

On each beach they've been different,
at home there, though
washed up gently by lapping waves
or thrown by high seas.
Now they're at home
in my house.
Each beach together.
Pretty shells from a bay in Minorca,
where the sea was freezing
and the sun bright hot above.
I remember the exhilaration of my swim there.
Then there are the large curving shells
dived for in Sochi by the son of a Russian family
who became good friends.
Captured memories now.
Those bits of wood from a Scottish loch side
now decorate the wall behind this computer.
Remember those midges? Oh my!
And now all joined by these from the Basque Country.
Beautiful oysters that seemingly tried to swallow stones.
Beautiful oysters decorated by barnacles and wormy fossils,
Now lying on the slate of my hearth.
I'll remember that beach with the waves lapping gently
and the first sight of something strange.
Half hidden.
I remember.

25

The Beach

It’s an unusually hot autumn day and I’m at the beach with the warm sand between my toes. The seagulls are flying low in search of prey and the children are splashing in the water with their parents intently watching. Music is heard in the distance and a woman is lounging on her beach chair, eyes closed, soaking in the sun. I lean back on my towel and watch the waves. I love the beach and how the surroundings sooth me.

The sky darkens and is about to open. People are scrambling to get their beach chairs and other belongings together to head home before the rain, but I decide to wait it out. Fifteen minutes later, the rain pelts and I’m drenched. I close my chair, grab my wet towel and head to the car. I dump everything in the trunk and get into the driver’s seat. When I start the engine, I notice something. Out at sea the waves are circling at full speed into a twister. I’ve never seen anything like it before. I snap pictures with my cell phone and watch in amazement as it twists and turns.

When the rain and wind stop, the waves settle and the tide recedes.

It’s time for me to go home.

26

A Trancing Wake

Is that a life I see washed ashore? Or is that an aspiration mottled on a circle of hope?
Trancing in muted silence deeply in want of being wooed by the gurgles of crystal waters whilst storming inward a sea green potion of life, it would seem. But truth hardly bares itself in a tomb of ruminations.
Pressing not toward, yet lying still on a sunlit, sandy beach appears to be markers and pointers to an intersection of hope and despair.
Or perhaps a strangely liberating peace – spread just inches away from a promising shoreline somewhat mystified by a warm embrace of an aspirating foam – snuggled lavishly in a sunny world of flowing fins and curvy tails.

27

ENDLESS SUMMER

From here to eternity:
the music of the sibilant waves,
our bodies sensuously buried
beneath the shifting sand.

How long will this passion bury us here?
Minds, hearts, flesh, bones,
together entangled inextricably–
all but the locket I gave you that swayed
at the end of a chain like a pendulum,
counting, counting our days.

The waves wash over us,
their music permeates our decomposing egos.
We return to what we have always been:
points of time vanishing into eternity.

Eternity! Is there nothing more
than our voracious craving for each other–
I and Mine, You and Yours?

28

OUR FOOTPRINTS WAVED AWAY

the blended colors of sand and of sea
like the promises we made

ebbed and flowed
in ever-changing patterns

blue/green frothed into white powerful as the intense love we promised
warm golden beach now the luminous color lighting those memories

our footprints long since waved smooth into memory will again show our
walking side by side, then turning to face into a kiss

as endlessly as the waves, and as surly as sun-drenched sand
we will always love

Oh, I can see you any time I choose
there by the edge of the sea

29

Ruled by the Moon

As the waves crash in, I am Zen
This is not my usual M. O.
Usually, thoughts and ideas come flooding in faster than the speed of light
Some may consider this a gift, but it is a price I'm paying for generations of past mistakes
Hyper-vigilance is what those in the world of psychological schools of thought call it
It's amazing how much a childhood trauma can affect one far into adulthood
Everything stuffed down for all of those years, comes spewing back up
We try to make our children's life easier than our own
However, if we didn't have good role models to get the tools we need
How in the world can we properly guide our own?
The judgement
The finger pointing
It's all so mind boggling and shameful that we all can't join together to make things right for our loved ones
We've all been traumatized one way or another
All of us
Think of all the wars that wouldn't even take place if we all banded together to make sure our children were at peace
This is my dream that I'm able to hold onto while laying here listening to the waves crash in

30

Icarus on the beach

(With apologies to Cynan Jones and Dolores Walsh)

So Icarus descended. Lacquered time
Arranged itself in foaming peaks before him.
A sand-full sky, a gritted atmosphere,
Surrounded that unconscious fallen form,
Whose late ambition seemed but a moth dream.
Behind its lens, the camera shed a tear.

Its view was only: everything at once,
With tidal mountains foaming eloquence
About that heat-hovered hermaphrodite.
Suspended ecstasy foaming in flanks,
Whispering to the world of innocence
Experienced. And in the garish light

Of noon, this time-tanned Icarus took flight,
With body waxy but unwinged, and mind
Scaling a sea of runnels slow receding.
He came, he soared, he jumped. Enamelled brine
Seeped at his feet. He tumbled or reclined,
Momentum frozen. Hope construed the ceiling,

Despair the floor. And in the gallery, one frowned,
Squinted, said: “this picture is upside-down . . .”.
Now, as summer tilts in its frame, they turn
Their bird-eyed view of Icarus around.
He hardly notices, he sleeps so sound.
He basks. His world rotates. And still he burns.

31

His Grief

He was numb, then.
A week had gone by –
yet dazed and shocked
he had hoped
it all to be a horrible dream –
repressing the scream
of pain and anguish.

The urn was delivered at four
in the afternoon.
It was tea-time –
biscuits on her favourite plate.
“Darling, you need to fix
the grater.”
Grated: his life.
The waves
crashing
brought him back to
where he stood
at the beach
empty and desolate.

He clasped the golden urn:
Memories too deep for tears
flooding before him.
He remembered all:
Introduced by an acquaintance –
how many – forty years back.
Read more >

32

It’s time to wake up

The water leaves a shadow
It conquers your footprints
Shades of green and blue
And white froth somewhere
The man lays down
Without any care
Blind to the forces
he can’t control
It’s not a beach
It’s not an ocean
Not waves, or the sunrise
It’s the snapshot of life
Man, oblivious and grand
Forgets where he stands
Lying without fear
When death is so near
The sand is wet
Where the water left
If you see closely
You will find
Parts of you
Buried
Submerged
The perspective becomes opaque
Even though so much is at stake
Man, wake up to the sounds of the waves –
It’s your last call.

33

Permanence

A building faded away behind the road,
The taxes, buses, trucks, two wheelers, cars passed by as immediately as they come,
People huddled and bustled and passed by deadly in their impermanence.
The soft sand touched my feet,
As I crossed this puzzle.
And in front of me
Is the vast ocean of fading waters:
Crawling;
Gurgling;
Roaring;
Running;
Constantly passing,
And yet at its place always.
The same yet anew:
To my sight.
The sun set in the west,
The sky changed its colour,
The birds flew in its music,
Everything is passing –
Yet is alive in its Permanence.

34

Infinity

Gurgling but rolling,
Thy infinite aroma,
Sweetens the outstretched sand.

Darkling but brightening
Thy colourful hues,
Paint the never ending horizons,
Carpeted beyond the vastness of thee.

Slowly but swiftly,
Incantation of your melodious waves,
Echoes to the deepness within,
Leaving sea mermaids dancing,
To the rhythm of thy music.

Distantly but closely,
Thy unspoken sagas of solitude,
That breathe in your watery soul,
Are narrated,
Manifesting thy countless tidings of life.

Unconsciously but intentionally,
Thy empty words emerging through,
The flickering ebbs,
Making me drenched in thy wilderness.

Loudly but solemnly,
Thy silence articulates unheard,
Language of thy tribal ebbs.

35

Inhale the sea

It was yet another uncalculated calculation, to impress her, to win her over – like that’d do either of them any good. He’d offered to run away to the seaside with her, when they both found themselves sinking under the same buoy, thanks to the loves of their respective lives invoking the freedom clauses they’d always insisted upon in bed, around the kitchen table – because what use was a right if it forever remained theoretical? The heart is its own best lifeguard, wasn’t that was the message of St Sebastian’s Day – and didn’t he die because he couldn’t swim on account of the arrow-holes? She scrolled through the ever-lengthening WhatsApp wondering whether she really was going to say what she wanted to but fuck it, a beach and a bedroom in unequal measures was what both of them needed and damn future diagnoses until their arms ached from holding each other. Still, she couldn’t resist one more task for him: Yes I’ll make love to you, but first you have to calm down and inhale the sea.

36

Fields and hills

Cooler than a rolling wave
Smoother than a washed up stone
Darker than the darkest cave
Fields and hills I wish was home
Sharper than a piece of glass
Greener than any blade of grass
Tired of the town and all its stone
Fields and hills I wish was home

More rewarding than a million pounds
Or the excess of those singer stars
An attitude that astounds
The rich and their expensive cars
Cooler than a block of ice
No emotion … just a heart of stone
Bluer than the bluest sky
Fields and hills I wish was home

Colder than the coldest day
Communication seemed to stray
Leaving people out of reach
More windswept than some distant beach
Brighter than the brightest moon
And more silent than an empty room
Smoother than a washed up stone
Fields and hills I wish was home

37

Content

Sometimes the feelings are too great and there is no choice but to surrender and you may ask yourself 'why didn't I surrender when I had a choice?'

And you wish you had given in when the sea crawled towards you, the sand seeking the weight of your hands

But you gave in on the kitchen floor, the moon upstaged by silver-lined clouds, the fall weighing against the mock-tiled vinyl

If only you had let go of the waste in an idyllic place, surrounded – a content dot in a palette of calm

It wasn't to be that way

You chose to crawl out of a howl to find solace in the lap of the stunned silence that followed

38

A NEW KIND OF NAKEDNESS

depends on your perspective
water and soap lash down
from the unseen head
lather dirt that might be rocks
to wash it all away –
has not yet reached the
belly button that could be
a figure on a beach
asleep in the sun or a fallen
Icarus landed somehow
soft or hard

depends on your perspective –
if you look straight down
from a very high place
glide or sweep from land to
sea and see the figure below
that reminds you of frailty
and so much of the ephemeral
structured for a brief eternity
where the waves beat – slide
over sand with no body hair –
suds – could be soap suds

39

I Have Never Seen The Sea

I have never touched the sea – never,
except if you count the number of times i have
written it into life like a jilted lover – i should probably stop that.
My sea is sometimes blue, sometimes green, sometimes black,
sometimes she froths on her lips – the shore,
in a rage against something in the sky – the moon, maybe,
that pulls her tides to kiss my feet with silver light.

There are times when my sea is Olokun – the goddess
of black depths; the despot that holds the chains of each shore
within the corals of her nails and the reefs of her breast.
When she vomits a confused crustacean, a gift to my touching feet,
she expects my sacrifice to be nothing short of a swim in her blood – the sea.
I do not know how to swim, or surf, or bob, or splatter,
but i can sink, which i think is better.
I can watch ancient sea turtles stare at the bleached sand
and teach the wisdom of fishes to man
but i have never touched the sea. I have said it again.

One day i will journey to Lagos,
find an empty beach if i can, lay a blanket, a book,
a bottle of soda and some crackers then i will watch the tides,
dancing prophets, lovers and conch shell seekers
and I may come to see the beauty that i write of the sea,
as it run between my feet and sings me a lullaby to sleep.

40

LITTLE WOMAN

We met at one of his gigs, in a pub’s darkened back room. He came to find me in the bar after he’d finished. I was lost for words and stayed quiet in case I began stuttering, which I usually do when I’m nervous.

This sort of thing never happens to me, especially since I have a glamorous friend who usually gets all the attention when we’re out. He told me not to be nervous, then talked about himself to help me relax: how he was always being stopped in the street by people who recognised and admired him. I hadn’t heard of him before the gig, but I put that down to my ignorance of what’s what.

Now we’re seeing each other every week, when he isn’t performing, doing radio interviews or seeing his kids from various past relationships. He asks me if I know how lucky I am: there are so many women who would like to be with him. I tell him yes, otherwise he might leave me, which I dread. ‘Linda,’ he says, ‘you’re perfect for me,’ which makes my heart open like a rose.

When we walk down the street, I feel I am at least two steps behind him, in the shade cast by his powerful lamp. I am the moon to his sun.

Since I met him I’ve lost interest in my sad scribbling. He never asks about me in any case. Being such a feeb, I don’t blame him.

People often ask me what it’s really like being with him, which I find difficult to answer. Usually I say I’m a lucky woman and he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. My friends say he’s no good for me, but that’s because they’re jealous.

Read more >
41

Neverending Grace

Life's waves overwhelming
Tide rolling in over my head
Alone on the shore, I lay
Wanting to bury my head in the sand
But a small voice inside shouts
"Hold on to your heart!"
It stops me in my tracks
Feet frozen in place
Breathing in the fresh ocean air
I realize, there is hope
Hope everlasting.

42

Close Encounter

Today you almost consumed me
But not quite.
I dared you again
I laughed at you
As you lapped at my toes.
Then receded
Now ebbing, you retreat,
and gather strength
For the next attempt.
For now I am safe.
I breathe your breath,
I feel your spray as you
spit in fury.
So close.
When the tide turns
the game is up.
You will win.
I surrender.

43

reach to a creature flick limbed

a draped membrane/
caul? Thin
skin skims of
cells –

reach to a
creature flick
limbed : a winged
thing to the fore –

could it be
a tissue scan in
coded colour those
supra magnetic bands?

Cobalt mottles
unscroll applied on top of pliant
plant green arsenic
behind wet lace.

You might see
granite specks texting
unease emoji-ing some variant
of tranquillity but

the cadmium sand/
epidermis is it rimmed
by water or
is it plastic damage?

44

Ocean of Deference

You come to me on salt crusted knees, your green
eternity throbbing against my cold ephemera

as my vision moults in a reverse alchemy
that corrodes your gold to velvet pitch,

you bring your unending pretensions to
godliness, you question my faith, what will you

be without my perception, how will you measure
your foreverness without my fleeting gaze,

who leaves and who remembers, who bears more
the visceral rub of the changing moon, know that

I am the child of an imploded star, a burst of
causal consciousness, yet you who swallow

rivers and corrupt rain, you who bed the sun
and awaken time, who will wait for you on these

naked shores when I am gone, who will tell you
what your wetness really means?

45

A CANVAS ON WHICH EMERGES

The self can be projected through space and time,
Angled whichever way you like. Today you might
Already be here next week having finally painted over
The messy marginalia of last autumn’s skirting boards.

Or there in the early 90s finished with university, she
Continues writing poetry, waves on the empty shore,
Imprinted for a while somewhere clean and quiet,
A Selected moving towards the Collected, then death.

Best of all: you taking A Mindful Stance, sweetly
Detached above the swell, where crimpled thoughts
Expand into Ashberyian prospects of cinch, noting
The colors of the day put into a Super-Retina surface:

Your mixed-media project of cork and hospital gauze,
Aquamarine glazing and a single ink-doodled doily,
Stuck to the canvas with a distended cocktail brolly.
To think it all started as a messy pencil sketch.

In the poem, as in the detached imagination, there
Are no burning bodies, no bags, no clutter, no sunscreen
Bottles caked with gritty sand, no vomiting behind the
Bathroom door, no half-read paperbacks left in the lurch.

Maybe this is like asking the apple tree to step away
From its autumnal fruit rotting slowly at its fallen feet,
Or asking the slow tide why it still advances and retreats
Never quite going or getting anywhere by doing so.

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46

pancake

that pimple on the chin?
comes with a trigger you can push from the outside in
makeup forever, pancake, foundation - what a lark!!
cover-up like butter pooled in the late morning of a southern hemisphere's day

collage skin. bladder lamp. macrame muscle

two cotton eyelids and a beard floating like a man leaving his wife
like East Coast Swing in the bottom of a glass as the whole world watches
like pieces of a young girl's togs, wet and defiant with meaning

limbs and brains
limbs and brains into a sea so green it doesn't stop
churn pool of remembering and thunder

clap hands, clap the silence, the pancake applied for one last time at the end
the end of us the end of you the end of the end as we crouched under the water together not even glancing,

sleepy streets. burnt bridges. knitted tomorrows unpicked

moon song
pimple, pancake dripping

small and so big

47

The play of sun on a prospective lover

Today, I am building a quiet mandala of you,
limbs four open gates, your body sand. A drifting

east and west of space, down here where wind
breathes water, and sea kelp billows greenly far

far out, borrowing light from all this burning blue.
Dunlins dip, turning stones of sound like time-pieces,

counting the edging tide as it lips along your skin
in ways I've yet to learn to do. I could leave us here.

You star-circled, washed, transparent as a saint,
and me kneeling, a meditative colourist in shifting shells.

I am a gull's distant eye, I magnify our little things.
The winged shadow of my arm, your conched hands,

how sea holds a sliver of sky from a mackerel flank,
the way sun fishers me in, hesitant as baited water.

48

There is more, beyond the water

You cross three thousand miles of deserts, mountains, plains, just to get to water. Invisible barriers sound in your head like sonic booms each time you cross, hidden, hiding. The crushing flush of blood and air pound in your ears. Quiet. Quiet, you school your unruly organs.

Now water remains between you and your destination. A channel cut off by concrete walls and wire. A channel cut off by riot police with pepper spray stinging you awake, shredding your sleeping bag in front of you with Gallic indifference.

They have a job: to keep you on the move. To prevent another Jungle. They perform it efficiently, ruthlessly. They don't see you.

But you are there all the same. Resourceful enough to make it this far. Determined enough to continue. To crush your fear into a small sour ball and keep it from choking you. Your instincts are honed. Whose eyes to avoid. The best place to sleep. Where to find plastic to line your worn shoes.

You know there is a better place than this muddy field, its two water taps for 400 people, the woods with its scattered trees for shelter. Better than this endless queueing for food, for blankets, for clothes that are too big, for shoes that won't fit but at least will keep your feet dry as you tread this sodden ground. More than this sitting and waiting and football and fights. More than the man with his gold chains who says $5000 no guarantee, $10,000 guaranteed crossing of that water.

“Line, line,” the volunteers gesture. “Back back,” they shout. And you rub against the others, acknowledging them with your eyes but not your body, knowing there are only so many bags, so many coats, so many pairs of shoes, so many blankets.

Read more >
49

Unconditional

The tongue of the sea licks the cheek of earth,
cleans this sandy plain like new skin. Its breath
is strong with ancient flavours crashing up
from the soupy, living green; a pungent bond,
unfiltered. Grit and sting of ocean.
The sibilant pulse of waves returns and goes,
will not be paused; cleansing, like time, those
scratches in sand, a moment’s scrawled impression,
made to disappear. Perhaps you can be brave here.

50

Drowning

I liked my tiny space inside
I was familiar with every nook and corner
Every place where I might stub my toe
I felt comfortable in confined spaces

Then I followed you

Now as I lie on this enormous beach
Thoughts scurry and scatter everywhere
Some gasping like breathless fish
Few paddling in the cerulean waves
Yet others drowning at the deeper end

This empty space inside my head, too vast now
To fist them like flower stems, so impossible
You were the string that strung them together
Kept them on a tight leash – then you let go

Now they wander off unescorted
Unbridled horses running with the wild wind

51

The Gentle Approach

Swell of surf, veil of brine, along
sand sodden with your passage,

you rise. Unfolding in hems
of gossamer, your lace emerges

from aqua tides, where foam
and froth flow in slips of chiffon.

How tenderly you move as you
reach for the one who is patiently

awaiting with arms outstretched
for you.

52

Perfect Relaxation

In the lap
of soft sandy beaches
She feels all shackles
breaking
vanishing
one by one

Away from city life
and the unpredictable struggles
She can at last
breathe some liberation

For hours she listens to
the songs of the waves
Sometimes a mermaid
also joins in
Her eyes capture
the sea blue-green
A poem
A painting
smile in her mind

Lying on the beach
on a perfect sunny day
She feels
inspired
joyful
Her body, mind and soul
all-relaxed
She feels re-energized.

53

The Cloud Breakers

plunge and spill in the oceaned sky,
refract in a curve a gust of breath.

Cirrus ripples, cumulonimbus breakers,
your spirit observes as it rises above yourself

spread on a blanket laid on watered memory sand.

Out of body, out of mind, look at the lilted lap
at your feet of cloud tumble, wax and wane

of moon tempered ruffled white.

A tide of clouds inches down,
leaves a faint thought
of where it has been.

54

Motivating myself

Gaurav 1: Why are you standing on the seashore? Why don’t you go in?
Gaurav 2: Why should I? Even if I go in, won’t the waves throw me out?
Gaurav 1: Yeah, so? You could try again! Couldn’t you?
Gaurav 2: But look at the waves! Aren’t they getting bigger, wider, stronger? And am I not smaller, littler, weaker?
Gaurav 1: So are you going to just sit and watch?
Gaurav 2: What else can be done?
Gaurav 1: Attempts can be made! Pearls can be found! Can’t they? Won’t you?
Gaurav 2: ???

55

PERFECT MOMENT

The thrill of take-off clasped bowels so,
I felt obliged to tighten cheeks.
It was passing spasm though
phantasm of potential reek,
and then I could enjoy the view

until instructor opened door
to pierced air, which buffeted my chest
that I might have hit the floor –
chute and all – but passed the test ...
and then I could enjoy the view.

And then I found I lacked a *must*:
the canopy was oddly missing ...
but at least a kindly gust
tacked to where sand sea was kissing.
I can at least en–

56

Point?

I am a dot. Just a dot. Nothing that interesting.

A dot, but if you look again, if you squint from over there, I resemble a printer’s stamp, a do-dad, a curlicue, an abstract and fixed image embossed on the surface.

I am a gray-scale blob. Then again, if you come a bit closer, I am more being than blob. I stretch inside my minute circumference, both center and diameter, with appendages jutting into a sandy world.

Upside down, as I appear to be from your perspective, do I look up? To see the lapping, frothy slurp of the blue-green sea? Or sideways? Toward another landscape, something picturesque, perhaps bucolic with cows or sheep or a stand of swirling, pulsing sunflowers?

I am a stationary point. I anchor the eye in a field of disorientation. I am a point, not much more than a dot. I take up so little space in the world, in this landscape of the liminal and shifting scene of collisions between states of being — liquid, solid.

I draw the oceanic waters to me. A divining rod, I point in the wrong direction. The white froth bubbles along the edges of a thin, vaporous sheet of water. It yearns to lick the soles of my feet. Like a drain in the beach, I wait for the waves to tumble into me.

I am more than a dot. I am the enigma that the magnifying glass will not resolve. I will most likely dissolve or disperse before I reveal my secrets. A blemish on the chromatic design of curved space charted on a rectangular map, a smudged reminder of misplacement within an elementary world of imminent glass and rising seas. I am the fly in the ointment. The conundrum of composition.

Read more >
57

My First Parachute Jump

I am an acrobat,
descendant of acrobats
who entertained in ancient Chinese palaces.
I fall through folds of oxygen,
geyser-foam, slivers of silk
under a dome bathed in aquamarine.
The South China Sea brims onto the sand,
casts shells and salt at my feet.
I make snow angels, smile at the dangerous sky.

58

Where the Horizon can be Seen Miles Away Across a Vast Open Space

We discussed the inevitability of growing old when we were young.
"I don't want this busy city shit." She passed the cigarette, a glowing dot, floating in the night air. "I want my toes in the sand and the sound of waves in my ears."

We lay there all night, dreaming of this place where taxis were a fiction. Dreaming of how it would smell, sweet from the flowers of red, blue, purple, white. Dreaming of a sky full of stars, thrown across the sky like you gave a six-year-old a bag of glitter. Dreaming of a place where a beach is made merely from sand, rocks, sticks, shells. Dreaming of a place where the water is clear, showing you the thousand-and-one things that will kill you.

The sun broke the skyline of skyscrapers, the rugged jaws, closing in on the almost-blue sky. She pushed herself to standing, threw the orange filter at her feet. "You comin'?"

59

When the sea falls

He was waiting for the sea to fall on him, or so the stories go. He was cursed. They made time stop and tilted the sea up, with him underneath. The waves looked like clouds against a turquoise sky – those who have seen it describe it similarly. Everyone believed the stories, and everyone felt sad for him. It was punishment, for he had stolen glances at the unseeable. What he saw would've probably been punishment enough, but the legend remained – he is to lie, upside down, in a moment frozen, with only his thoughts free. His mind unfettered, everyone believed him to have gone mad by now. No one really knew how long he had been that way, but there were rumours, which would make you cry.

In his mind, he welcomed the moment, hoping that it would be soon. He wanted the sea to fall.

60

the wash

the wash
has capillaries of air
the wash
has a level of description
the wash
has plasticity
the wash
with its warm forests
describes and describes

on whatever level it fits
the wash
describes and describes

the wash
chokes on its food
before it swallows it
the wash
has been made to touch me
the wash
and what comes out of it
yes,
and what goes in

61

We Are Satisfied

That’s a great shot, man. Did you use a drone for that?

Not really, he says. And he opens Photoshop. Three layers: one for the girl, one for the beach, one for the ocean.

It’s amazing what you can do with a handful of filters and the brush tool, he says. Content-aware fill, it’s Adobe’s gift to humanity. All of our lives are Photoshopped, didn’t you know? Everything’s an illusion. If we want to see it, we believe it. Who cares if it’s real or not? We are satisfied, that is all that matters.

Yeah, he says. Yeah, I guess you’re right. Great shot, though.

62

Too Soon

there is still a place inside of me that sits rustling, untouched
a slow growing tender leaching bad blood from me, but I know that someone has to be listening to the noise I make. I am half done being a vessel for your love, for this feeling, for the deep, and riding the train on a day like this reminds me that it is lonely to be anyone. It is hollow to become, and I’ve lived so many undoings and unbecomings since. I’ve forgotten how to let some parts of you take up spaces and dimensions that mean something.

I still have dreams where the ocean of you, where the water of you, fills my lungs and I wake wanting you to know that I, too can disappear with Florida. I, too can be erased. so if everything is drowning and I haven’t learned how to swim then maybe the noise here will reach you with my silence.

at the bottom of the pool it’s spring again. my mom tells me that the carnival is back in town. and I dig past that loaded gun in my drawer to find my favorite shorts that remind me of the lightness of the rides that waltz for us. and the sick fullness of funnel cakes that we lick the powder off of.

the news reports that a mother and son died in a car crash on kelly drive and my mom holds me like I hold my breath under the weight of this drowning. I am silent. she tells me it was you and your mom and that tender place throbs red. I drop my weight and push it all down letting my body be a just body under the body of water.

I buy us tickets to the carnival anyways and I reach past the shorts to cock the loaded gun.

63

ANDROMEDA’S ORPHAN

Cloistered by terror of petrifaction,
child grew in shadow of mother’s death
and pulsing trident.

Resentment burgeons with maturing muscles.
Eyes emulate hardening scales
as she watches Poseidon falter
with worshippers’ decline.

She grows curious
of the fascinating scents and detritus
as retribution approaches.

Bursting from eon-eroded shackles
in absence of long-dead jailor,
she dares the unfamiliar open waters
to rise – starving maw eagerly swallowing
families who betrayed their home
for delusion of greener pastures.

64

The Joy of Vulnerability

Joy liked the feeling of vulnerability as she spread her towel on the sand. The tide was coming in and she found the perfect spot within feet of the frothy waves. She brushed the sand off carefully as she looked around, not a person in sight. Miles of ocean tide and sandy beach all her own.

She plopped onto the middle of her towel and spread her arms and legs wide like a sea star. She loved the breeze tickling at her skin. She could just reach the sand with the tips of her fingers. She dug them in delightedly and wiggled her feet as she listened to the waves ebb and rise.

The sun caused her to crinkle her eyes in a happy squint and she let out a short squeal. This was the life. This was where she felt free to think. This was where all her decisions were made. Sometimes she would doze, feeling so trusting of nature to care for her. Thoughts would pop in and out, fleeting like the waves which would soon be splashing against her outstretched toes.

65

The Water’s Call

It starts with water, tepid and foam-free, bouncing off her skin in the shower; small tears fracturing as they collide with porcelain, exploding on impact.

She drinks only water, pure and transparent, encased in glass. She does not trust herself to add anything to it, not even a slice of lemon; something which packs a hidden punch, something which would get to the heart of the matter.

Water is everywhere and accompanies her to sleep, surfacing in her dreams in the form of huge waves crashing on to the shore, wiping everything from sight. A clean sweep. Blink and you’ll miss it. The horizon now spotless and resembling a single tidemark.

Sometimes she dreams of giant taps, water running, continually flowing, seeping into hidden cracks, bloating and swelling anything in its path. She likes the unpredictability water brings; how, despite it being most definitely a liquid, can be frozen into a solid, and if left exposed to the air, can evaporate into nothing. The idea of freedom – unbound to anything – flows through her veins, quenching her thirst and increasing her desire for adventure.

In the bath, late at night, she immerses herself completely, pinching her nose and closing her eyes before taking the plunge, entering a water realm; a world that is constantly moving. Here, she forgets the woes of daily life, the struggle to wake up in the morning with a smile she does not feel is plastered across her face. She thinks that if she stays here long enough she might just pass beyond consciousness and enter a more forgiving place.

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66

POV

You imagine that you sleep in innocence,
but everything points to you, even the edges

of incoming waves. Your blanket holds you
in its pucker like a burn, the cigarette lifted

away. Beachgoers, too, give you a wide berth
as if they sensed the hovering drone.

Only you are dead to the world. Only you
have let this and other things happen.

67