You were asked for offerings under the general heading Beside The Sea. Trawling the entries netted a majority of negative slants on the annual migration to the land’s edge, and a plethora of seagulls, looking beautiful, just passing, screeching, stealing chips from mittened hands or relieving themselves. Human interest included the inevitable bikinis, libidinous spouses in leopardskin trunks and lecherous Lifeguards. Here is the selection, in no particular order, of salt, sand, shingle and sewage-flavoured pieces that floated the editorial pedalo.
I grew up swimming in the gentle seas
off Maryland. But now, in the UK,
the ocean tries to kill me by degrees.
Try Cornwall, my well-meaning friends would say,
or Dorset on the black Jurassic Coast.
The sun’s reflection off the shelf of shale
will warm the sea and set your toes to toast.
I tried it, and it was an epic fail,
the August water’s stab too sharp to numb.
I never knew marrow could hurt that way.
The only British beach where I have swum
without such pain is Sizewell’s B’s broad bay:
no heaven, but as close as I can come.
I’m coming even closer every day.
The cellulite quivers, the sweat runs in rivers;
The geese all have pimples, the fat folds in dimples;
my lover, we’re down by the sea . . .
No sand here, just shingle; the mobs make you mingle –
Nor room for your towel, you’re crammed cheek by jowel;
my lover, it could be Capri.
Everything’s sticky – but let’s not be picky;
Your phone contact flickers, a dog’s got your knickers;
my lover, we’re down by the sea.
The beach’s one sand smidge has got in my sandwich;
The icy waves slurple – my thighs have gone purple:
My lover –let’s pack up and flee.
They said there was an earthquake, but the pier
Still stood upon the shore, the old arcades
Still bleeped and flashed, and nothing here
Seemed to have moved. The colonnades
Where pensioners stood sheltering from the rain
Were still intact, the kiosks still pristine
As on the pier the rattling of the train
Still formed a soundtrack to this English scene.
And yet the earth had moved, I feel it still,
A memory that never fades away
And standing here I can recall the thrill
Of that momentous and exhilarating day
That changed my life forever, as my hat
Said ‘Kiss me Quick’, and then you did just that!
Stink On The Brink
(The Marine Conservation Society
estimates that Combined Sewer Overflows
‘discharge to at least 500 beaches . . .’)
If by the sea stray dogs excrete
So summer sands are less than sweet,
Beware lest stuff in which you tread,
Blind you to peril overhead
Since gulls, although a graceful sight,
Will frequently perform in flight.
But, should you brave the breeze’s nip
To plunge in for an early dip,
And, when you surface from below
Are sickened by a CSO
Tainting the tide with toxic waste,
Where now should all the blame be placed?
It happened on a jetty by the sea;
A wife and husband chose to disagree
About today’s hot topic, global warming.
Their loud and vicious vitriol, their storming
Quite outdid the same by Mother Nature
(Please excuse the cutesy nomenclature).
Words were just a part of it. Harsh smacks
Inflicted bruises; then it turned to whacks,
Where limbs were battered, facial scrapes occurred,
And dental trauma too – it was absurd.
It wasn’t simply stupid, but illegal;
The only witness was a passing seagull.
The storms subsided, there beside the sea;
The sullen pair trudged homeward, grudgingly,
With bodies aching, and with feelings nettled,
The fate of global warming still unsettled.
How strangely fissured seems the English shore
As if the whole thing's cracking.
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar . . .
The fools! They've started fracking!
Thumbs up, thumbs down, the Godfather decides
Who lives, and who’ll embark on final rides
To catch a silent one-way midnight cruise
Then plunge beneath the sea in concrete shoes
To satisfy La Cosa Nostra’s wishes
That guys who screw it over sleep with fishes.
Roll on, thou deep and dark-blue Ocean, roll
Above those rats who lacked the self-control
To seal their lips when cops applied the heat,
And two-bit thugs who thought that they could beat
The Syndicate’s immense all-seeing eye;
They found no haven, but were doomed to die.
Old Ocean, with your boundless appetite,
You make the evidence sink out of sight.
Douglas G. Brown
Arromanches, June 6th 2014
The politicians have all packed their platitudes
back into briefcases and left the scene to chase
tomorrow's hope of photo opportunities.
Now all those hours of private quiet the day had lacked
land unopposed at last along the beach.
And old men pause where once they clawed for space,
their tears like shining medals on each face.