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Tide


All day I have been thinking about the tide—
each time I tapped the wheel or slowed,
accelerated out of the next bend—
whether it's low or high,

whether the rocks are exposed,
the clumps of spreading weed
just under the surface, that abandoned slick
of hair at the centre of the cove—

or whether the white tongues
are licking at the faces of the cliff
from here to Sennen, and falling slowly back;
whether the sea's begun

to cover the slipway, finger the upturned boats
with flying spray; whether the stones
are dark and gleaming, the cliffside succulents
wearing their salt coat;

whether, at high or low water,
the tide is turning, slack
as ageing skin. Part of me watches it
from the inside lane—a sudden bottleneck

and there on the opposite carriageway
a car's upended, its crumpled roof
squashed against the wheel and silvered glass
hanging in cobwebs. Surely

no one can have survived.
Or in that lethal other
pile-up near Bodmin, where the yellow signs
with a black square at their centre

send us all off how far?—fifteen miles? ten?—
trapped in a slow-moving line,
blinded between tall hedges,
till we join the road again.

Yet when I catch a glimpse—
at Worthing, Portsmouth, Chideock, Penzance—
it's only blue-ish, flattish, unprepossessing,
made safe by distance.

Far out, or close up in? Stopping to eat
my lunchtime sandwich, I almost sense it move
between the rows of picnic tables
in a glittering wave

—and later at the wind-farm, high
above me, where the crazy blades
are turning out of sync, a hillside stands
and semaphores as I go by.

And then I'm here. Gently
I freewheel down between stone walls
afraid of what I'll meet. I park the car
next to the cliff. And start to empty

the boot, and turn to look. And see the tide
is as it always would be, halfway in
or out and racing, the water white
with foam, the weed

submerged, a trail of salty drops
across my window glass. Can it be rain
or spray? The beach is slick,
rust-dark. The water laps

and creeps, and laps again
in all the usual places, and explodes
and falls slow-motion back, reveals
a crab, a strand of kelp, a buckled tin.


Susan Wicks

Poetry Ireland Review

Issue 108


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