Smoke misting branches of a cypress
behind the vacant house signals
fluctuating wind directions
as we might be finding opinions
between rocks furred with lichen,
twisted strata, or two boys
who’ve tracked looped worm casts
and are digging, digging
for all their worth as bait.
Failing to predict erratic geometry
a hermit crab sketches across
flat stones, our son’s disappointed.
His empty bucket’s scooped up,
taps dull syncopations, flips
from ledge to ledge, blown down
to stall in drenched sand.
Flotsam, lost things dam streams,
create wreckage for the moment.
To have this beach to ourselves –
as if we had some prior claim,
being amongst those who, pinked
by on-shore breezes, have stood here
and recalled this or that winter
when the landlady took to the water
every day, or sea-spume
flecked the windows of her pub.
Or, perhaps, the year it didn’t.
Incontrovertibly out of season,
the market’s depressed. Cottages
won’t budge. Blacks scraps rise
against grey, too solid cloud
like all the punctuation shaken free
from yesterday’s paper. Gulls
go through their routines
while crows possess frail aerials.
In amongst these local territories,
we might well be out of place,
places we could call our own.
At odds now, we move back up the beach,
collect that wind-blown bucket,
read headlines, climb hills,
stare at the bay’s predictable waves,
retreat into somewhere that we’d call home.
Tom Phillips 2011