Poetry: on the sea shore and elsewhere



a mass of shining seedlike stones
give rapt ovations to
each and every thrashing wave
rushing and suc

on the shingle shore

their actions never pall
every successive crash applauded
like a brilliant goal
or work of operatic genius

no boredom here, no flat familiarity
each fall surprising artistry to sculpted stones
as if they wait a lifetime for
the perfect excitement of that special death.

Scattered on the drying shore
At the far edge, where all the furious
shift and shock has died away
here's what the sea spat out,
the lasting product of this artistry

plastic artifacts, bottles without a message
bags, lighters, string, tampon inserters,
rope hawsers (what story when that broke?)
some wood.

The water's word:

"Here, take this back.
this is beyond digestion,
although, in time
I can reduce your human lines
to curves beyond your best equations
polish your breakages to sheer perfection
sanded, smooth, sanctified, bleached,
tasting of holy sea"





It is essential that I stand here at the water's edge
watching the waves wash over silky sand.
I must commit this sight to memory
though I have been here now so many times.

It is important, time is conspiring
to rob me of this ancient vision
the tide is ebbing, and still I do not know
how that smooth wave

will grow, and crest, and fall
and hiss its foaming feathers at my feet.
I cannot see its essence, only the form
And memory of other waves.

It is important that I stand here,
facing the simple line where sky and sea
merge in infinity; stand here
in this domain where sea melts into land;

stand at this margin, unchanged since
our living world condensed
out of the crucible of energy
that is the breath of Spirit.

Stand with my back towards
those children darting from pool to pool
touching with round red hands
the coldness of the endless sea.

Turning my back upon that seaside town,
its hollow walls, wasp nest with sharper lines,
giving a fair pretence of permanence
but stained with salt-rust, and its footings cracked.

I am compelled to stand here watching
trying to learn, remember, trying to sense.
For we shall pass, the sea
shall stay. And hidden in the shorebreak

there is a revelation surer than any teaching,
if only we could hear. The Infinite is here
breathing again and again one word


satin silk and velvet
are rougher than the surface of this pool
on this evening of silence
and echoes
beautiful echoes

we come in sleek ships
trailing canned music
like a dustcart trailing flies

a hunter pops the silence

I swing at peace
on an island of human tools and toys

to be so bathed in darkness
that words vanish into the page
like whispers in a storm

when our dream ends
this water, this rock, this hill
even this old wood

our life flies like a bird
following the tranquil air downstream
reveling in the slow smooth slipping away



the hunter's gone
just living music now



I see this land, salt marsh and beach
stretch level to the sigh of distant waves.

Our marks are everywhere.
lines drawn around our holdings.
all the sweet, green grass
just tinged with weakness.

Huddled against the wooded hill
across the bay, our houses wait.

Faint lines traced by an upper wind
across the blue lit sky
five streaks of colour
cradling a bright half moon.

That which I cannot see, is dark.
behind, the ragged wood
climbs up towards the monks' old fields,
to where the ancients made their stand
against the red-tinged waves.

Closed down inside my body
marching to the drumbeat of mortality,
I lose the sky, the sea
although they are within me, I within them

confusion of thought
flaps like the wings of a captured dove.

What if consciousness were Being
and as my vision holds this bay,
another Vision holds the world and sky?

Sees in those rocks, the seas that were before?
Sees in those houses sparking on their lights,
each inner human world
each feeling, numbness,
this teeming, dumb, transparent, hollow land
within ourselves?




Shivering in gusts
the water
savours the shore
a silver tongue, licking away
the thoughtful questionings of our feet

the water at low tide
promises fullness.
when the creek is full
it says that nothing lasts

not our brief holding of this land
nor yet the ghosts of those
who worked this creek before.

not the rock cliffs, high as a man
below the convoluted ancient oaks
standing uneasy between the soil and sea
the stones that gives out brief, sharp echoes
and slow momentous messages, great waves of time
nothing, not even rock, remains

across the water
there is a shore, where we
desire to be, and being there
we look again with longing where we were

distance creates desire
it is not there, but here
within the stillness
where breathing becomes breath
suspended forever
in a fullness of being

when the infinitesimal
is all that is
and when this love of place
is the same love that moves and forms the world




Here where the mountain peaks
melt into cloud

and the light is brilliant
on Hockney pools

when for a silver second
the diver's spark hangs in the air

and the sound of voices
laps like trapped water

and thin music breaks the stillness
like a wasp's insistence

in dry heat we lose ourselves
wallowing in sunshine we have made mordant

our skin sleek, shining, soft
and slowly withering

our images grow thin
like mountains fading into haze

or colour washing from a photo
turning away to sickly blue

we rest and wait in short shadows
waiting for warm evenings

waiting for sleep, for the morning
waiting for time to pass

until our life unfolds
its reel of memories

hoping to find
a diamond on the pool's aseptic floor




Diffused in vast quiet skies
a drift of rain
gathers innumerable
light sparking spheres
each holding the whole world.

in this impassive
urgent white edged speed
green tongues between polished black teeth

power that sucks the mind away
drawing it down to endlessness

how many grown children
caught in the maelstrom
of impossibles that never touch
lonely as mountaintops
unrooted as a raindrop

fell spinning to the roaring mouth
of Conwy force?



Spoken by a seventeenth century seaman

Many times when I laid down my head
And my old limbs were granted stillness
In that instant before plunging into dead sleep,
The flitting lightness between shipboard and water,

In that timecrack before rocking into
Re-dreams of days steeped in the presence of Death
When my only hope was the captain
And the captain's only hope was God

Be that God his own damned self, or else
The science and art of his seamanship
Or even, when those hopes drowned in the last wave
The God of his mother,

I felt that ancient unworked hope of peace
When the sea was out to kill you
When instant obedience is salvation
From having saltwater whistle in your lungs

In that hair thin moment I felt Presences
People with limbs like us clad in
strange clothes and driving swift shining ships
that whip along carrying no cargo

except the cargo all but orphans carry,
the burden of love for family and home.
Many have felt them at some time
though none of us know why they sailed.

Some say they went for sport,
To have the sea wash out their souls
Like well fed lords who hunt when there's no need,
Making their hunger as they hunt.

I'll not believe that any man faced the wave's crack
For play. To me they're gods or angels
Come back to talk to our old souls
And maybe touch and help us.


View From Crook Peak

Below us now, the levels
where Monmouth fought, and
Jefferies sat on stinging haemorrhoids
while sending farm boys to the rope.

Down to your left
the Vale of Avalon
peppered with hills that play at dinosaurs:
that wood smoke laced with mist
is drifting on towards the Tor
the breast there raised up to the broad white sky
where Michael plays the piper once a year

This ridge was once a mountain range
that's vanished now into thin air.
Its glacial run off cut a sickening groove
into the limestone slabs
the Gorge, still wild
throws rocks at alien lice
that crawl along its bed

sweeping on down
the Mendips lift the air
sweet rising air that gives the gift of flight

Back over, that was Quincey's place
where he and Coleridge and their gang
would reason stonedly about their world and words

And to the north
the air path followed once when
cloud lift shrank this hill for me
down to a map.
Dizzy with height
the great wing banked
and bucked its way downwind to home
aimed for the cricket square
but landed thankfully
on soft green grass at Honey Hall.

North west, the Severn
gives a brave, dull gleam
under the mountains and the clouds of Wales.



there's Woodspring Priory
where you can feel the love
good monks gave to the ground.
It's desecrated now
home to the current cult of death

This ridge we're on
leads to the sea
to Brean Down's tip
where riptides make the waters mad
waves dance on their hind legs like circus dogs

while on the Point
there's ancient toilet blocks
where soldiers shat their youth away
waiting to bombard Boney's fleet
that never came.

over the Bay, those are the Quantock hills
home of the man who ruined Xanadu
under their shadow lies
the block of Hinkley
humming with power
heat for the many
slow death for the few

We brought a Slovak up here once
to see the view. He wept.
- Nowhere untouched by man, he said.

I sort of like it here. It's home.


© Richard Lawson
March 2001

Leaves on the lawn

This happens every year:
coloured and sculpted to look like frogs
a leaf-plague crawls across the mossy lawn
sometimes by hop and skip, mainly by stealth

blurring the borders
blanketing mournful flower beds,
their plan is simple: cover the earth with mulch,
rot-fragrant brown leaf drifts

repeat each year
to make a fine soft nursery for seedlings
to raise their heads, spread out their arms to greet the sun
and in their turn, drop leaves.

We cannot criticise.
Within our species there are those
who'd clad the earth in concrete
without a second thought.

Between those two extremes
we have to set distinctions.
Grass here, flowers there,
and leaves in shining sacks

to wait three years,
rot down to fibre, to make soil
improvements that I may not see,
if in my turn I go to ground, the land sold on

maybe to be covered yet with concrete death
or reclaimed by the river.
but we must do this work ;
our given role
is to improve our soil and our soul.

Richard Lawson
Congresbury winter 2001/2


© 2001 R. Lawson This page was last updated on 27.12.02