Beach walk

My young daughter and her best friend were on a residential pottery course in north Lancashire. One evening we visited the coast just south of Morecombe Bay and I had a clear-thinking moment.

We walk on the grass by the shore
jumping the channels that cut the turf.
It was beautiful from higher up
brown lines patterning bright green ground.
But the water stinks
and we groan and laugh
and wrinkle our noses.

At the grass’s edge the channels broaden.
The sculpted mud is soft and smooth
and the sea’s far away
and the tide’s far out
where a distant pony canters
and splashes and baulks.

Satiny shimmers on wet sand
in light so delicate
my heart fills
and I must look and look
and imprint what I see
at the back of my eyes:
birds feeding on glistening flats
two girls racing
the particular shape of a cloud
as it catches pink
from the setting sun.

The girls’ giggles ripple the air
and their feet dance
as they neigh and prance
in the frills of the waves.
Boulders lie handsome and black
against the flat pale sand.
The birds call and move on
and the light continues its changes.

I’m suddenly longing to run
and run and run
barefoot on the shore
the beauty unbearable
as the beach darkens and the sky stays bright
so I take off my shoes.

The shock of it!
Cold mud
oozing through my toes
and sucking and pulling.

The sand isn’t sand!
It’s grey clag
smoothed by the endless
ebbing and flowing.

The boulders aren’t boulders
but lumps of mud
where rain and wind
have battered and torn them!

Is this what you think,
is this what you meant
about love?

That it’s not what it seems,
that its radiance always deceives –
and that mud will suck at your feet
and the sky (still lovely now as the sun slips down to the sea)
will never stop changing.