! Jewels Of The Beach
the waves throw themselves
onto the pebbly beach,
but as if they regret their own angry generosity,
pull back a sieved undertow of finer pebbles
mixed with rogh toe-grating sand;
their generosity the swathe of larger pebbles
which gleam like jewels, before the salt-water
dries them into centuries of scratched, scoured surface,
dull as familiarity.
That swathe of jewels – magic to a child;
but now I’m older, yields a mental miracle
of nature ceaselessly at work:
green bottle-glass pebble – rounded to a smooth, safe shape
for the child to spot and pick up –
that’s easy to trace: from fishermen’s magic globes, the net-floats,
or bottles thrown carelessly overboard
on some romantic cruise..
white chalk – that’s easy too: final shape
whose roundness may resist at last the restless sea
chewing away at Dover’s so emotive cliffs;
just the right size for a tiny fist
to write on concrete; it could write but scratch
that slate or blackboard with its ABC.
a gorgeous mottled red: as if from pillar
of some exotic Eastern temple; a closer look
suggests some mighty compression of the earth
that’s left a substance just about halfway
between soft Devon clay and harder granite;
and here a softer red; shaped from some brick
the sea has stolen from some poor defence;
but that will write too, stir a first artistic effort
setting off the white; but leave a trace of itself
on that small, tight fist;
now the shades of green – the hardest stone,
serpentine, which glows when wet or waxed:
how long did this stone take
to shape – and then to roll on ocean floor
from distant shore and ancient mountain range?
a whole range of semi-transparent yellow-browns,
agate and suchlike, best when wet; their structure
easily breaks down, too small for fun;
but here’s a slatey grey, veined with white, as if
some modern sculptor had seen its possible potential,
smoothed it with a loving hand; nature,
says the aesthete, meeting art..
the occasional alabaster sparkler just survives;
so dull now, that you’ll need to smash it first;
but here’s the pride of all this sea-tossed mile of treasure trove:
a ravishing, smooth, moon-white marble, maiden aristocrat;
how long, how far, to roll and sieve this
like some ageless prospector sieving for gold or diamond?
what Greek palace tipped by an earthquake
into a blue Aegean sea? Into the crummy pocket of the shorts
that one goes, to line up with its kinsfolk
on the window-sill..
a sea-shore (you can hear it in the word itself..) ,
a beach, a child with blowing hair and eager eyes;
these two spell happiness; live nature’s most compatible.