Walking north towards the estuary –

the high dunes on our right, the surf direct

from Ireland on our left – we come across first,

at winter’s high tide line, a scattering

of too many empty razor shells to count,

and then the urchin skeletons, maybe

a hundred, two, whitened by the wind,

some almost placed like letters the sea has scuffed.


These are ‘heart urchins’ or ‘sea potatoes’

misnomers for this lapidary piece

of calcium almost weightless in my palm,

patterned with pinprick embossing and tiny

repoussage. What storm gouged these burrowers

up onto the strand for gulls to disembowel?


Storms made the dunes half a millennium

ago – and sea urchins have been here

for nearly half a billion years but this

is the age of the Anthropocene.

We make the weathers now! Criccieth’s castle

is over the bay and, behind us, Harlech’s –

their quarried stones mortared with lime and beach sand

abounding with the dead.




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  1. #1 by Clive Watkins - August 2nd, 2017 at 11:26

    This is another attractive scene, though one shadowed by violence (disembowelling gulls, deaths of creatures from the sea, Edward I’s commanding castle at Harlech and the hybrid Welsh-English castle at Criccieth, “their quarried stones mortared with lime and beach sand /abounding with the dead”. I particularly like the fact that “abounding” has a watery etymology.

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