Friday, 13 July 2012

Lazarus in the ocean

Skin and vinyl part, doors open, voices
escape the stifling Valiant station wagon;
boys race shadows and sisters to the water.
They scale down the evolutionary ladder,
unwashed necks bear gills, outstretched hands
and feet display webbing between fingers and toes.

Sun, casual observer, marks data all summer
on spreadsheets of sand; time constant
as the distant sound of waves sucking up land.
Kept company by the smell of the mosquito coil
they sleep on Hessian stretchers prickly as anemone;
tents snap, disturbed reptiles among the salt-stunted trees.

Lulled by the distant undertone
of waves rolled across ancient words
the boys dream to the tune of earth breath;
rise early to grass-gasping mornings
before the sun bakes the world
too hot for bare feet to touch, become
tanned grains of sand tossed by the Laundromat
ocean, filled with the gull cry of the sea,
wind whistling across sand and water.

Older brothers fish from the pier watched
by salt-crusted, unshaven men whose voices spill
with the cracks of seashells, their hands split
like old car tyres, nails as hard as marlin spears.
The prodigal children hate the smell of fishing –
as if a part of ocean has been stolen.

The salt-soaked, splintered pier wood
baked with the stench
of death with human fingerprints.
They fail to understand the ritual
sisters undergo with towels, sunglasses,
bathers and lotion, little water
action, various poses - books open
and unread, words less important
than the feet of young men.

Fathers visit the pub every day between
noon and three; avoid the water like cats –
prefer the taste of hops to salt.

Mothers sit on the sand, towels wrapped
tight from waist to ankle to make mermaid legs.
Right hands clutch straw hats that threaten to escape.
Keep vigil, distant eyes, secret thoughts safe
as the soft flesh of mussels that cling
to the pier’s posts like black Christmas lights.

From dawn to dust the prodigals are let
loose, tiny E=mc2’s, hair matted
like the fur of  wet tennis balls,
raw eyes filled with the darting arrow heads
of fish, their chain mail
flashing in the murky ocean light.

Hearts pulled by the tide, exultant
in the chaos, purpose absent until mothers call
from the hot sand shore, fathers beside them,
already bored, and they, thousands of brown Lazarus
swathed in the sea, close to the Light,
are called back to life once more.

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