Flood Tide On the North Coast of Cornwall by Jane Darke
For a few days twice a month
the moon pulls back the sea
and leaves it there exposed, reluctantly.
Fish and lobsters are caught by this first tide
but by the second, which goes further back,
they have retreated if they can
to deep pools
and to the deeper sea itself.
Then this land craves the sea.
Anemones resolve to glossy mounds
and kelp stalks stand two feet above the water
now with fronds hung limp.
Worms in their casts in grey silty sand
move as the slope dries
and water trickles down, everywhere and out,
to the Equator.
Limpets rasp on rock
and crabs tick away the seconds
listening for movement.
Small cuttlefish, mating,
change colour as they drift.
Dark sea slugs sometimes in hundreds,
graze clear green sea lettuce.
Iridescent turquoise weed
lies over purple-red palmaria palmata.
Pipe fish, straightened sea horse,
slide through bootlace weed
almost unnoticed as eight lobsters,
one centimetre each, sit together in July.
the sea bed.
Black neoprened bodies
with crushing feet queue to jump in pools,
turn stones and leave them turned,
take tiny crabs cooked at the caravan,
spear anything that moves
but somehow not each other,
converge with kayaks, lately paddle boards
and four metre grey and orange dirigibles-
unloading everything they own
for they have bought the wild.
And at the biggest out
when the sea pulls back further,
then further back and in six hours floods
to the highest line of strand
(a seven metre rise of ocean in six hours)
this flood tide fills the world.
At this turning the weight of ocean is measured
then trickles over drying sand
in eager reclamation
taking no time to soak in.
The force of water swirls everything
together and apart and land animals must leave
as prawns drift in,
then sand eels and smelt shoals,
to see what died under the sun,
then big fish to eat them.
And all roads lead home
as mackerel breeze the surface
in great shoals, crush into rocks,
then head south fat for winter.
Nairobi- Rift Valley- Masai Mara
Leaving Nairobi in a fast truck,
red earth after rain,
we banged down hard
over ruts and barrelled
on toward The Rift
climbing through viridian
and shanty sprawl.
Long lines of tin shack,
wooden one room shop fronts:
Tasty Treats Hotel,
Okonkwo Lubricant Oils,
Ntu Lele High- Vet- Agrochemicals,
roasting corn and Coca cola,
on the road.
At the edge we stopped,
amid tourist tat, to look.
Stretching below the hazy plain,
The Rift Valley,
ancient caldera either side.
A vast expanse swept down
where we would go.
Container trucks screamed
past as motor bikes
with three people
wove between. Then
green turned pale
and on the valley floor dust parted
revealing goats and cattle.
Zebra and gazelle stood
in scrub as we drove faster,
rain falling hard.
kicked across the track.
And last of all the tall men
turned and smiled.
Night fell like a blind.
Deep trench either side,
we slewed in mud,
a truck alone in wilderness,
when something in the axel broke
and we were quiet,
even the driver. This was Africa.
Each time I come I clear her garden,
a small yard with white walls.
Is it ten years?
I prune the pale pink rose
against the wall, now cracked
and dropping render.
Moss fills the non-slip grooves
in broken paving.
Worms slowly empty flower pots
through the hole,
weeds of bitter cress sit low inside.
I feed plants that survive
with pellets from the drum,
snip dead stalks off the lavender.
Self-sown fox gloves I move to fill the gaps
and bamboo to hide the window light
at night. The stones wander.
She liked the wood sorrel,
a plant she showed me when I was a child.
‘It just appeared’, she said.
Wood sorrel which drops its head,
asks so little,
lives bright and still in moss
on threads of stem,
returning every year