Little Blue Hut – Poems by Nancy Charley
Giants endure in the estuary:
On my watch I observe two clans
though once three thrived I’m told;
heroes from the warring days
with laddered legs clamped to the sea bed,
their armoured bodies held weaponry
which brought down flying enemies.
More hulk than hero now,
civvy street’s been none too kind
except for three years when they ruled the waves,
pirates famed for defiant songs.
Made dumb then dumped by officialdom,
unwanted, maybe unstable,
no longer able to communicate,
the bridges between them are disintegrated.
They are reliant on the kindness of strangers
for hope in their hell.
He is suddenly there, feet in gloopy shallows,
hands pitted as the shingle, gaze at sea. I follow
his line of sight, he stares at surfing kites,
the arms of his jacket flap incongruously. I follow
his trudge east with steps weighty as water
at a spring tide. He paces so slowly I follow
with ease to a rendezvous with purple athlete,
a rolling guide whose glides impart energy. I follow
till they lunch, leant against the sea wall,
nibble at their whispers as they part company. I follow
past crows crowning rusted outflows,
a wetsuited woman waves at him, glares at me. I follow
his semaphore, decipher the message,
a murmuration of starlings in ascendency. I follow
as he tears at marram grass and glasswort,
misery mirrored in deserting sea. I follow
colour shift: sallow sunset, black clouds stacking
cause a sea change from dull to lucency. I follow
but I cannot unriddle who he might be,
whether his presence alters Water-Watcher’s destiny.
A Song of Hibernation
I wrapped my heart in a cotton shroud,
I wound my heart in a silk cocoon,
I gave my heart to the carrion crows
who flew my heart to a lace day moon.
The moon sank into a bruise-tinged haze,
my heart slipped into the cold cold waves.
The current twisting from flow to ebb
carried my heart away away.
I trapped my sorrow behind panes of glass,
I hid my body in a pinewood shed,
I pooled my tears for marygold drink,
I stifled my sobs in spider webs.
But a money-spinner comforted me,
crawled my hand as I scrawled my hurt,
taught my lament to the screaming gulls,
scattered my anguish to pecking culvers.
I will bathe my face in the morning dew,
I will pinch off fear to feed crane flies,
I will sprinkle self-pity along the shingle,
skimming pebbles as anger dives.
My skin will absorb a radiant sunset,
my body will bask in crepuscular rays,
I will wade in the shallows when cats’ paws thrill,
I will dance with the moon’s corona display.
My heart will return when autumn is dead,
once winter is sifted and spring has sprung,
my heart will stir in its shrouding cocoon,
bloody my body, release my tongue.
My heart will return as a cormorant
lumbering silently over the sea,
oiled and preened and cruciate,
embracing others and saving me.
Daily she gathers armfuls of bladderwrack, carries them home,
dries until black, then weaves fronded weeds for her love.
Yet she fetches sea lettuce and gutweed to feed on their juices,
resourcing strength, awaiting the dawn of mourning’s end
This is the day the sea lost its sway.
This day the clouds held control over hue,
as hanging low, they leached colour away.
The day began as a man in black
with skipping ropes and twirling batons
stood on the shingle sending signals.
This day accumulated cumuli,
mountain high, turned water grey
but cotton bud scud bestowed yellow-green waves.
The morning filled with grass-cutters,
a drone that swelled with roused insects,
a starling racket flown in to lunch.
At noon, as clouds cleared in the west,
the sea two-toned in blue and charcoal,
cut by a line from shore to horizon
which brought the man in the motorised chair,
caped and cowled, dressed for prayer,
with pilgrim pups knelt in his basket.
Bewitchment came as a skein of geese
opened an aperture in the sea.
I will not disclose the face
or form of the one who rose.
But his breath becoming breeze
resigned this sentinel to leaving.
Nancy Charley works as the archivist at the Royal Asiatic Society. In 2011 she spent six weeks in a little blue beach hut on Tankerton Slopes, near Whitstable on the north Kent coast, recording the changing tides and shifting moods of the shingle beach. Little Blue Hut is a book about weather and water, bladderwrack and gutweed, swimmers, dog-walkers and sea anglers, cormorants and blackheaded gulls, resident birds and transient people . And always the horizon where sky merges with sea. You can purchase Little Blue Hut here.