Alistair Noon

At the Atlantic

Surf ignites across granite
singeing the continent's edge.
Water, slow worker, scrapes at cliffs
that revealed their wrinkles to coracle and caravel
as weapon and word began to circle the planet.
On the swell a dinghy swerves to the waves.
We find six white petals, Latin to follow.
Gulls glide to their established ledges.
Wind, the malingerer, breezes in at intervals.

We are reading our instruments as ambition
assaults the beach like thrust
on trees at a runway's end.
It vaporizes on slate for as good as infinity
while sand relocates in seconds.
To mark the tides, wetsuits and boards
swarm out to the crests where control is peripheral.
They, too, are conducting tests.
Will water insulate the skin? Hair drip back into place?
Form is pulled on, stretched, zipped.

A whistling man pins a day's left-behinds,
binbagging papers, picnic debris.
Dragging black plastic in warm wind he finds
what would otherwise wait for the sea.

Lamps on the cafes diode the daylight
darkening in the sunset's blush.
They shine in the final tries of the tide
that sags in the sand, softens its crush.

On the evening agenda: methods, collaborations,
rivals and funding, friendships undone,
distant news of machine guns in the sun,
valleys flooded with incinerations.

Whistling he pins the day's left-behinds,
as the surf on the sand grinds and grinds.

Time to examine the miniature beach-pickers,
sandhole-diggers scavenging the silica
expanse that submerges to America. Why fly
or dive? They jump and burrow to survive
the constant advance, the multiple avalanche
of flotsam and foam into their foraging zone.
Six legs kick them headfirst into mini-dunes they burst
out from to scurry again. Wind and high-tide hurled,
they have settled the sand. Translucent and bloodless,
their bodies are ours.

Air designs the dunes with revocable gusts.
Descending footprints dent their sides.
Durram and thistle tug life from sand.
Down the air slides into a dip, then to rise.
Grass mimes the snow on a mountain spine.
Our eyes live for surprise, to pattern the coal
scattered like a stranded shoal. Back and forth
mandibles bear leaf and twig.