Churchill Beach


this summer I learned
from this little curve of a bay
that opens up beyond an arch of leaves
that shade the bench where I tie my bike
threading a snake through a loop of wrought iron
that may itself have been cast from pigs
native to my hen wlad unforgotten
reminded by this landform’s similarity and difference
that to know a place cannot be done in a day

the tides here throb like the ring of two bells
their notes chasing around the headlands
to echo from stone to stone
here doubled
here silent
and always shifting
muffled and mute
or cracking fierce at the window glass
to set your teeth on edge

the rocks themselves are bland
a dull continuity of form
lacking the frills
of synclines folded and refolded
to mark the crashing of plates
complex as pasta
or as a micrograph
of a sectioned katana
that was worked
and reworked
and quenched in a peasant

and yet the bay teems
clams squirt in mud
and every upturned stone reveals a crab
as if this here were my Cambrian
bivalves and brachiopods anticipating
the crushing weight of trees
for hundred million years
or ten
until a new ocean erodes the risen land
undercutting cliffs to show
secrets in limestone

each day I swim
each day is different

this side
hidden at high tide
boulders rich in barnacles

this side
a tough chain of rock traps sand
a gentle slipway between groynes
overlooked by arbutus
auburn as my ancestors
who also stood defiant on cliffs

my skin maps the shallows
I perfect my cartography
with ankles and knees flagging way-marks
with slivers of dermis

and always the threat
of boats in the channel
zipping along in illusion of idyll

in the water I feel slick as spit
like the skin of the seal
that barked round a corner
to answer my morning cough

the smooth slope of this weathered bed
tilts to dawn sun
spring and summer
warming early
when tides conspire
to dip before noon

this incline is perfect
to open my hips
above folded legs
and allow me to sit as I dry

I see the sequins on water
and feel the odd droplet
almost at random
break loose on my skin and slide

the waves shift
with each turning tide
or each forceful thrust of a boat

for moments here I am not
for moments here I forget

and then


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