Seasalt

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It comes beneath scudding sky, the slug of sea
singing green as glass, sucking and spraying

slate turrets, the jagged throne of Rhossili rock
where a boy squats, pink-chested

with a spade in his fist, turning pebbles.
A bumping heap of slow crabs, their wet scuttle.

Twirling a ribbon of seaweed, his grandfather bellows
in baritones, ‘Lavabread: salted, fried–

da iawn, mun’– coughs with a copper lung,
carrying both bucket and boy

to where a woman with loose brown skin
swings babies through the shallows,

towels their pudgy feet. She squints up, eyes
her teenage son sweating and frowning

beside the changing cubicle, half-aware
of the awkward snap of swimsuits,

and dead and thin as a fish, a rubber
floating pale in the Atlantic. He knows–

casting his net in the blue of his mind,
seeing the cradle of rock in salty dawn

shoving hard each morning to the mists
that he must spend years now hauling them,

the pearl-eyed, scaly monsters, his young skin
damp with stranger fish, his wide sargasso mind.

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Home

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The last time I felt it, my body small
and hard as a gulls’ egg
washed and brown by the bay, my sister
moved wide and spinning
through a white whirlwind of sopping foam–
dropped down,
  down,

on hilltops, me bigger now,
confused, but still following her little feet
whispering through daffodils.
We crawl to the edge of the earth.

I do it now–
  crawl. Push my awkward body
stupidly beneath picnic benches,
through sticky firs,
trek circles around war monuments,
knees shunting through the grass.

I drop to catch my breath,
hot and ashamed, the green rasp
against my palms I call back,
  call and call
beneath a cry of creamy gulls,
a woman now, silky-thighed
with poppies inked on her ankles,
  searching for home.

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Whirlpool

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He tried to talk to me
again, then sprinkled his fingers over the sink
in a kitchen that no longer smelled of smoked mackerel
and toast, his hands plump fish pushing down,

down through the dishwater. My father stood stooped
as if searching for a lost wedding ring, wiping knives
with a cloth and left them, filmy with rainbows, to dry.

You see, this wasn’t his kitchen,
the crumbed beech of the worktops, tea-stained linoleum
left somewhere, stuffed in our history, a two-year co-habitancy

slabbed underground with the heft
of her expensive slate. She loomed behind him, round as Venus,
burning candles through the musk of tarragon and lamb,

tiny lemon puddings in glass ramekins.
It seemed to me she came quietly, at first, a shiny blue shoe
skewed in the hallway, the faint scent of Jo Malone Red Roses

ghosting in his bedroom, then all of a sudden
her shadow lumbered across every wall, swept up the crumbs
of his kitchen, dragged him like Hector through the dust

of our two-bed house. She eyed me
and kissed his neck hard, drowning his voice like Scylla
swallowing Odysseus, the whirlpooling silence between us.

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Strangers

Mumbles Sunrise Pano BW

(Inspired by the works of Dylan Thomas)

She married in this pouring place,
saint carved and sensual among the scudding
base of the familiar sky–
up through the lubber crust of Wales
and the golden pavements laid in requiems.

I am the long world’s gentleman, he said.
The studded male in a bent, midnight blaze
scaled a hailing hill in her cold flintsteps,
showed her a picture of Boston Harbour
and how summer looked in Ireland.
He knew every story from the beginning
of the world, the moon-chained
and water-wound metropolis of fishes,
the oil and bubble of the moon.

Winter-locked, side by side,
her hair had fallen untidily
and three of the buttons of her dress
had come undone. Thirty-five bells
sung struck and he said his prayers to it,
knees bent on the blackened twigs,
huge weddings in the waves. His naked need
struck him howling and bowed
twined in a moon-blown shell, gazing
through the smashed windows at the sea.

Always goodbye, cried the voices from the shell,
her deepsea pillow where once she married,
old paper blowing by them–
strangers now huddled against the wall,
their cigarettes sparkling, hands by their sides.

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Postcard

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I write her a postcard to tell her
how I am. Not a real postcard–
the back of a coffee-ringed photo
of the pair of us, the same lemon dresses,
snuffling ice cream cones on the wall
in the wild chill of Devon.

In the mornings the bullish sun
heaves through everything, shatters
the greasy mirror, sour laundry,
with daylight I do not ask for.
A bottle of stolen make-up
she’d left dribbing on the sink,
her bracelets I thumb like rosary.

A towel sags on the doorframe
and I suck my pen trying to think.
Here, the windows have been locked
since she swung them out,
chain-smoking into the breeze.
A ribbon of chemical blues.
I write my first sentence,
I’m doing fine
and do not mention
her bedroom walls crumbling around me,
my suddenly oversized jeans
or the housefly buzzing, hysterical,
butting its skull to get out.

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Homecoming

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Today she feels the wet coil of her brain, synapses
frazzled to smokey violets. White volts. She twists her body
to the window, taps the purled rain, every hair bristling

the scoop of her neck. A panic attack on the bus.
Her old wool gloves have acquired
an entirely new shape, reminiscent of dead birds.

The bus hisses to a halt. She can smell already
a wreck of overstuffed ashtrays, clothes,
curled magazines. Dirty dishes left by the bed.

Here, the moon won’t go home in the morning,
swings it’s white eye to the pavement where a bag
keeps rolling about, small as a smacked gull.

Her phone trembles in her fist, brings her back
as she lifts the brass key, calls “Mam.”

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Sunday

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I sit
in a winter kitchen, stiff
and girlish, slurping steamy clots
of hot gravy. The wet mush
of my sister’s chew.

I am waiting
for you. You, rain-blistered,
with a newspaper tucked in your armpit,
carton of milk in your fist.
Pennies dazzling your pockets.
You, calm.
The engine killed on the drive.
Perhaps I am waiting
for the beery breeze of your shirt
zigzagged in all the wrong buttonholes,
the wonky smile
which makes you a stranger
in the wet window,
the dog circle you like a moon.

We are waiting,
chewing,
pecking peas from our forks,
your gravied plate clamming
like an hour-old wound,
wondering
what could have been
so unbearable homely
it had you tumbling out
under streetlamps, flailing
like an ancient baby
with even the dog crying behind you,
licking grimly at your fork.

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