Sunday afternoon, sun burning down,
and the sea’s all in, right up to the red rocks
of sandstone, here 25 million years,
whose ripples and faultlines, says a billboard notice,
tell of the dinosaurs and plant life
that flourished in prehistoric eco-cycles
and rivers that sometime – once in a million years –
cut across a desert carried west
out of the Middle East and Africa.
So much for then, today the beach is awash
with a great wave of weekend day trippers
making hay with the bank holiday: babies,
baskets, blankets, beachballs, and parades
of polka-dots and stripes go by; the ruins
of sandcastles get destroyed by the tide.
My family are far-flung figurines
out there on the second-last latitude,
strolling in the surf while mister men
test the perimeter – silhouettes sailing
the sea level, at the rim, beyond the stalls
where ice cream, hot dogs, cod and chips are what
she sells, while ragged rascals run round rocks.
Concrete slab of breaker for a seat,
I’m moored amid upturned canoes and piles
of lifeboat rings, and wreck of crashing tide.
Teenage couples drift back from behind
a hidden cove and others, miscellaneous,
mill around at kayak, surf and sails.
I drink in eyefuls, beached; see pink and yellow
swimming costumes, sand and surf and sky
and people drinking lemonades. Fetched up
here from a sunken vessel, listed badly
in the smoke, I’m pitched beyond the pale
then rescued: breathe the sea and find
myself a reinvigorated sea dog
of the high main, salty taste for importuning
older sisters, sizing up the scallies
promenading on a whitewash pier.
Behind us, the sprawl of amusement arcades, the snarl
of bumper cars and queasy ride of what
the night brings. But this afternoon’s an eternity
of gulls’ cries, air full of stinking sea, and I consider
the solitary surfer that the wave swallows,
the dinghies bobbed about, and the furthest
mast and sails on the horizon, in the blast
of direct oxygen off the Atlantic.
Today’s all high blue colour and the sun
rippling at six on a cold scene, which I scan
for my cousins, who come wading out of the shallows,
enlarging into themselves as they approach.