Today there are at least two of the so-called
great religions of the world represented
on the beach. ‘By their raiment shall ye know them!’,
or some such: a troop of evangelical
Christians in genderless red tee-shirts;
two family groups of Hasidic Jews
in head scarves, dresses, kippahs, prayer shawls
as required. An adolescent girl passes
in a shalmar kameez, which makes the tally
three. Poised with a net by the rock pools
is a young man in a yellow turban. Four!
A quartet of elderly women
in saris stands at the edge of the sea.
They might be Hindus – or Sikhs, or Muslims,
or Jews, or Christians, or Buddhists, or Jainists,
Taoists, Zoroastrians, Humanists!
What creative creatures we humans are –
or what a jokey shape-shifter God is!
Pleasure beaches like city squares are
unsafeguarded places where complete strangers
mix haphazardly close to, far off, as chance
dictates. This strand must be ranked as safe
by minority ethnicities
and people of colour. No one seems
circumspect or aggressive. Is the
seeming vileness of this kingdom, the
hateful and contemptuous claims of
divisiveness virtual not actual?
Is this the Big Lie of facile pundits
and celebrity snake oil politicians?
Is the peaceful joy of this ordinary
summer’s afternoon illusory?
As the wind-breaks begin to be rolled up,
chairs snapped shut, towels shaken the crows arrive
monstering aside the black headed gulls
whose environment this properly is.
They take whatever chancy pickings they can,
haram or kosher.