Sunday, 7 July 2013

Three Poems: 'By The Sea'

Three poems written for the Leonardo 2013 competition ("By the Sea") by Mark Richardson, Gillian Meadows and Emma Bell.

A Call

I never thought I'd live by the sea
The rolling sway, the darkening gleam of water.

I was earth bound, city-plunged, dancing on concrete.
The thrum of the taxi cab and the Routemaster bell sounded my call.
Sirens rang around my head,
My face was decorated with lipstick and dust,
And the clatter of heels and disappointments whittled away at my heart
As the airs of boys and girls drifted into the trees of Soho Square -

Now I lie on stones gazing at thousands of acres of sky
The shape of islands reconstructs me.
The forts, my stays.
The dove-grey water cleanses me,
The world revolves on its axis properly and
The wind is my siren call now.
As my children bathe their strong coastal bones in the Sound
And the seagulls' shrieks match theirs . . .
The foghorn sings a baritone.
Twilight: and lights pinpoint through the lowering sky

Illuminating our future.

My heart, mended-
This is now my call.
                                      Emma Bell
Without Me
You are my sixth sense.
Inland and parched
I wither and weather.
As sand-tears chafe


The sea-smooth rock
Shaped by time
And tide;
My shipwrecked heart
Weighs heavy.

Heavier still
With bitter salt
As the tides call
And turn
And turn again without


In my dreams
The slap and drag
Of the shore
haunt me.
The sifting
Shifting land
Taunt me.
The shrill cry of the gull
Mocks me.
Calls time.

As the saline drip
Slips away.
Down by the sea
Without me.
                          Gillian Meadows
Rose early that day:
The noise of the expectant crowd
Was a tumult through the window.
She must have known why;
Nelson was about to leave The George.
The High Street was jammed with people
Eager to catch a precious glimpse of "Him", the Hero.
She would perhaps have realised
That he would never get out of the front.
Perhaps she spotted him leaving
From the back of the hotel.
He could
Have turned left, up Penny Street
And into what is now
PGS, his very steps
Later celebrated in assemblies.
But he turned right, the road here clear.
His voyage was to the sea
He was wanted on the Victory,
Moored tidily off South
Sea beach.

Prevented him from leaving eastwards
So his likely path to the sea was
The tunnel below the southern platform,
Now still supporting a cannon
Pointing not at the French
But the dangerous Isle
Of Wight.

Last steps,
Then, were under that tunnel:
Narrow and dark, echoes of his quick step
In the sudden silence, and then
Out into the noise, the glare.
After that, the beach, his last solid land.
Legend has it that the crowds cheered.
Perhaps the ghost of Henry Tudor,
Standing by his tent by South Sea Castle,
Vainly seeking glory in battle with the French,
Was looking not at his ship
Foundering in the Solent
Nor hearing the faint cries of the
Doomed seamen and soldiers
Trapped by the nets and rigging,
But instead, gazing out at the hero,
The admiral, the darling,
And hearing the crowd's wild

If he left the town
By the Sally Port as intended,
He would never have died on that heaving deck
Off the coast of Spain,
Musket bullet fatally lodged in spine.
But as he strode to the boat
Through the tunnel by the sea,
Through the darkness and into
The glare.

The crowds dispersed, later learning
Of Nelson's death in the victory of Victory.
Perhaps some recalled, "I was there."
Some might have said they
Saw his small boat launched from the beach huts.
Someone might have said they
Saw his small boat launched from the beach huts.
Someone might have seen him
Dipping his head, hat briefly removed
As he walked through that tunnel.
The George has gone,
The eastern ramparts
Long since removed.
Waves still flop
Onto pebbles.
A cannon still stares, one-eyed,
Like Nelson.
Footsteps fade.
What remains?

                                Mark Richardson



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