England, low tide
All the fuckin’ country
is tense about some dead duck football game
tonight at 8 pm (or so I’m told).
The sea it slinked away but turned again
and stealthily manoeuvres to reclaim
the mudflats populated by the clumsy
clumps of seals. They loiter, lolled
like slack balloons, like lard
collapsing down to chip fat on the hob.
But we, we sit up straight: our sofa, stones
beneath a clay sea-cliff; our screen in the pub
a vista of England; our crowd noise, sobs
of seals who keen for that thing so desired
whose loss they bode in tortured groans.
We should return to England
before the rising water bars the doorway,
snips the cord uniting Lindisfarne
to the mother nation and her stories.
But born again twice daily when the causeway’s
cut, this wailing castle-headed island
plays our heartstrings like a bairn
and we cannot take leave
so soon. We opt our own bloody-minded maroonment:
spectate as wraiths of haze blur England out -
the homeland of my soul, but now, this moment,
the mainland opaques to cobweb-swathed entombment
and not an atom of me needs to grieve
the final shrouding-off of it.
Perched here on rocks - red rocks
with veins of quartz like fat through hunks of beef,
a purple mound of mallow flowers spilling
down a scar behind us where the teeth
of winter storms have gnawed - a summer breeze
soothes away all tension. We just watch
the derring-do of swallows skimming
low along the bank
and now perceive the militant skriekings of terns
wardening a colony invisible in the blear.
We rise and amble off. Bladderwrack squirms
beneath our boots and ocean rounded stones
rattle to our progress as we track
towards the houses, mutineers
defying the consensus
of every other tourist near the village
to make it home before the evening kick-off.
“Stuff the soddin’ soccer!” I envisage
the comedown; watch cars nose-to-tail in scrimmage
across the flooding mile; deplore their senseless
mass retreat, but once they’ve fucked off
the Holy Island’s ours.
We promenade a placid tourist hub
transformed in half an hour from Tourist Hell;
stroll to the castle, lording on its bluff
of whinstone; take refreshment at the pub;
scour the dunes for novel native flowers;
stand frozen in a roebuck’s spell.
The sea engulfs the mud
and deftly moulds its ornate shoals anew.
Snouts of seals make molehills in the green.
Throughout my life I’ve loved how nature moves:
I’ve always fumbled over stitching my fealty to
the English flag with that great cross of blood
carved upon its pallid skin.
I know, behind the mist
my country’s rugged landscape has not changed
for all the love they net, this vibrant team.
Hope will hit the bar: a keen of rage
will reach us even here across the bay,
and throwing down their chips, supporters, miffed,
will quash with hiss of piss the dream.
But that is all to come.
Right now we drift in bliss through swathes
of orchids, placed ornate amongst the shorter
dune slack weeds. The highlight of our day’s
a strapping dolphin pod that sprints away,
silver fins all glinting in the sun,
away in leaps, to deeper water.