Sea Gleaning


The swimmer,
Grotesque with mask and pipe,
Slips into the swell.
However well he turns,
Enveloped in this fluid element,
So seemingly at ease,
He never will be gilled or finned.

Below and beyond,
The distance thickens into impenetrable blue.
There is no horizon under sea
But, overhead, an undulating skin
Filters the brazen sun-light.
No air can seep into the sea’s depths
Unless fractured into a million, silver beads,
Thrown by every breaking wave
Against the blocks of fallen rock
That form this coast.

He is transfixed by the marine inversion.
Dark, weed-fringed chasms,
Sliced by sharp-edged cliffs,
Are awesome as soaring mountains.
Gently sloping uplands
Are descending meadows,
Decked in frond and frill,
Grazed by shoals that run as one,
Like any herd of buffalo,
With glistening flanks, striped and barred
In softest hues of peach and primrose.

He dives and dives again,
Strives to seize,
Spied on the sea-bed,
The delicate, spherical skeleton
Of a sage-green urchin.
At last, he surfaces,
The stolen treasure light in his palm:
Too exquisitely patterned
To be left in the blind depths.

Strange this need to glean a trophy.
As much, perhaps, to cheat
The beating sense of trespass
As to lift a jewel for you.

Poems for Artemis