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Sea Holly

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1

mudstone crumbs
shell
fragments
finest sand
tidal
grind
every day
every
night
a medium of
crawling
life
compressed
baked
lifted
blown away

salt
marsh
shallow
soil
shingle
marram
grass
fescue
grass
tidal
path
creek
of
pollen
falls
in whispers


in the clay in the loam in the top of  the soil
in the sand in the molt of  the sea

in the light sand the light sound of shift in the swash
zone waves burrow for release

in the bend of  the body
I balance my current only takes me back
when seawards seawards is the call of my curve
& no turning

 
2
 

Two large cormorants flew rapidly and very low across the water heading directly towards Langstone Rock, where Dawlish Warren joins the coast just beyond the western edge of the Exe estuary. Their wing tips were almost touching the choppy water. This must have been about 7:45 on Friday morning; I was thirty yards or so out in the sea, only my head visible between the waves that the cormorants flew in among as they powered along one behind the other. I had come down the concrete lifeboat ramp and taken just a few steps on wet sand scattered with various shells, little gleaming stones, and scraps of seaweed, getting quickly into the cool water. The sky was piled up with dark gray cloud overhead but clear and bright at the horizon. The two birds passed close by and continued on their way indifferent to me watching them from the water and they gave no indication if they saw anything unusual. 

she swam 
only at night 
on the spring tides

in the silk light of water
slipping her over
the mud flats

when they studied why she did it
drifted far beyond her limits
though it made her vulnerable to prey

several theories came
but none swam
at night in a spring tide
in the silk light unsure
of itself
becoming only what is left
after breaking

 
3
 

herring gull
black-headed gull
arctic tern
oystercatcher
turnstone
sanderling
carrion crow
jackdaw
white wagtail
rock pipit
peregrine
kestrel
buzzard
brent goose
cormorant
kingfisher
farther out
gannet

stomach of fur
coughed up at low tide
stranded

snowfall of fur
dusting the mouth
sanded

out of this
worms fall
soft as whispers
coiling into faun-
ing “Aphrodita”

& out of her hair come the corpses
of a swallowed sea

 
4
 

mussel
shell
oyster shell
clam
shell
cockle shell
whelk
shell
limpet shell
winkle
shell
razor shell
crab shell
lobster
shell
prawn shell
sea
lettuce

she
              windblown sand
              seashell sand
              shifting sand
she
              sea sandwort
              sea rocket
              sea holly
she
               half sand
she both sea
               she half sea
she both sand
she is a both-formed thing

she
               wool sand
               cotton sand
               wood sand
she
               sea leather
               sea crystal
               sea skin
she
               half wool
she both skin
               she half skin
she both wool
she is a woollen skin

she
               asphalt soil
               nylon soil
               sandy soil
she
               landscape
               escape
               seascape
she half soil
               she both scape
she half scape
               she both soil
she escapes

 
5
 

And swimming my slow breast stroke out to the channel I saw a darkwinged butterfly come flying in above the waves, moving with the breeze, heading for the dunes. Was this a migrant painted lady, third generation, from Africa?



drifter           on the surface
upside           down dead
                       water

                       floater             upper                  sheltered
                           on the littoral fringe
                                                lower                  very sheltered

                            swimmer upward                 of hundreds    of thousands
                                                                             of hundreds    of thousands
of hundreds   of thousands   of hundreds   of thousands   of hundreds
       of thousands   of hundreds   of thousands   of hundreds   of
thousands        of hundreds        of thousands       of hundreds             of
thousands        of hundreds        of thousands       of hundreds             of
thousands        of hundreds        of thousands       of hundreds             of
thousands        of hundreds        of houses             of hundreds             of
houses of          of hundreds        of houses             of hundreds             of
houses of          of sands               of houses             of sand                      of
houses of          of sand                 of hums               of sand                      of
hums                 of sand                 of hum                 of sand                      of
humming

Source: Poetry (December 2016)

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This poem originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Poetry magazine

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