Wild Court

An international poetry journal based in the English Department of King’s College London

‘Tide and Tidings at the Equinox’: a poem by Prue Chamberlayne

Tide and Tidings at the Equinox

Concrete curve is lashed in swirls of spray
      from gun-metal grey —
a liturgy for loss for one snatched off
a man of song and subtle smile whose paintings
      bring the outside in,
reflective pools with scumbled bladderwrack,
      impasto sensuousness
of sea and sky in cobalt blue.
      You long to share
the blast and emptiness of losing him,
      but this pitch in
to ocean swim seems Dantean.


Ebb starts: swim gear, barefoot we tread
      on grass and grit
down concrete steps to ginger sand,
      surf swirls ankles
thighs, whole being splashed and knocked,
      no time to think,
plunge in to hurl — hard to grip
      on sea or self
as crests mount and peak to crash,
      how to expel
a gulp of brine before next thwack,
      lungs must find force
to reach the turbulence beyond
      where legs regain
some purchase despite cross-cut jolts.

      The carmine orb
descends to layers of slate grey cloud,
      its fire-path broad —
how fervently we urge it reach us!
      Cold cringe sets in
as we deliberate, then turn
      to concentrate
on undertow, suck out and back,
      the bullish push
towards plumed groynes, how to stand
      on streaming beach
as we emerge in wind and whoops.


      Next day more wild.
Our pace is buffeted past seaweed drifts
      and garden tangle;
torn fishnets hang from huts on stilts, linked by
      gangplanks to the cliff;
far out, pickers bend to mussel buckets.


      Hard to believe
return of swell and roar to this expanse —
      the surge your fury
at the fatal illness that stays unexplained,
      this force that sweeps you up
beyond yourself, suspends the agony of void,
      salt bitterness
far more than you could weep, all elements
      conjoined and braced.