Swash Line

It’s not just where miles of dried
spartina stalks have been washed
into the tide and returned, making
rattan mats the gulls step on like
barefoot house boys, or the sinking
into the sand of tangled creatures
who couldn’t let go,

or the way they heap as if piled
there by a copper-skinned man
gathering his roofing in a time
now as ceased as the midden shell
rings and the rose-colored sail
of his boat.

It’s not the way a storm tide
thrashes white foam up and over
the lip formed by last year’s dredge
spew, a renourished beach, these
desiccated reeds criss-crossed
and flattened into a seamstress’s
edging suddenly spongy with salt vomit
and rain,

or the humiliating contrast
of the hotel’s pots of hyacinths
blushing in the midst of dusty miller,
and the bordered mauve kale opening
like a girl’s crinoline under the

The land drawing its line against a
sculpting ocean that eats into cliff,
that powders schist, hurling the
knobbed whelk out of dream,
castigating siphon-feeders and the
filtering soft-coin lives that attach
themselves to slippery stone, creating
a polis with a single, repetitive thought,

the moon-crab slowly aslant
in its preoccupations, scrape-
sliding over husks once green
and high, swiveling stalked eyes
toward the surf, swinging about
on vibrations in the reeds,
the ground of its being held to
the land by the land’s leavings,
as the sea whines like a dog.

John Allman | Mudlark No. 31
Contents | Dream