Nuns clambered on the headland. Like scarabs,
they traversed the sage slope of limestone
to the hermit’s shrine. Marine creatures, landlocked,
awaited the sea’s coming. The poet
descended by funicular to the bay’s
elegant crescent of hotels. Mists
trailed the foothills of distant peaks. In saloons
of bevelled mirrors, his comrades sang
marching songs. A love poem formed like breath.
He crunched on innumerable pebbles.
Waves gasped and sighed, smoothing the wooden groynes.
Two aircraft, high, high above, dived, banked, climbed –
a predatory bond of whining vapour loops
interlocked like wire – until a spurt of flame.
In smoke, one spiralled like some gross leaf
under the horizon. By the sea wall,
a cormorant lay dead: nearby, a page
torn from Treasure Island. Unexpectedly,
he returned to childhood – holidays
in small rooms with giant wardrobes and tall beds;
a flying boat landing from beyond the blue,
feathering the briny; expensive strangers
embarking for Samarkand; at the Grand,
legerdemain. The sea flowed oyster.
Teatime arrived with its obligations,
allotments, chapels and a woman
methodically descending a ladder.
Drizzle suffused the geometrical skies
of barrack windows. The grey tide rasped.
The night was full of girls he would never see.
Nuns dreamt of scaling paradise. Fossils
and saint were locked in their diurnal chambers.
The poet approached sleep, dreaming of
water – purposeless, unmade, fulfilling –
and lavender seeds – in the small, azure
pomander, locked away, safe from winter –
changing slowly into air.