“We are the sun,” you said,
that his light arose with us
playing on rainbows,
his myriad smiles the spangled waves.
In those days thoughts were endless,
vibrant pages which turned by themselves.
There were no limits to how far we’d run
or dream out onto the sea,
our hearts living free in a peerless sky.
But thoughts like books do have an end
and I have died a billion times,
holding on to every word you said,
like a child might ask a question
between the pages of his lives
Is there a point where the tide
a moment that I could see, or touch?
I’ve been looking
at tables giving times, exact
minutes of apogee, and it was
just here I’m sure,
where I pointed
and saw nothing, except
the foam stretch ahead of me
like phantom silk, all
along the buff triassic sand, as far
as I could see or walk.
“That’s where the waves
stop,” you said, “where the tide
turns back to the sea – and me.”
It wasn’t at Jarrow where I sensed you
but on Bamburgh’s raging shore,
among the seaweed and razor shells
on gull peppered sands,
its castle brooding behind me
like a huge chiseled tomb.
North waves were scrambling,
spilling memories of guttural voices
disguised in flushing sound;
cries of songs, harps and old tales lost,
fragments I could almost hear
when I turned my head into the wind.
And who was the black figure
bent against the breeze,
absorbing sharp light
on that blinding beach?
I struggled through the dunes,
the little islands of sparse grass
and pygmy flowers —
but you were gone,
extant only in memory,
my boundless imagination,
and in your books
which carry me through centuries
on a primal wave,
each time I read your words
To this day I don’t know for sure
who you were.
You sounded American
and dressed like a Californian,
or that’s how it seemed
to my parochial mind.
I wasn’t used to your friendliness,
being spoken to so kindly
by a complete stranger,
but then, that was the thing —
I felt I knew you.
Why didn’t I ask your name?
The event had brought us together.
Now we waited for the train
to take us back through Cumbria’s
rounded hills, always threatened by rain.
And true to form, despite it being July,
we found ourselves sheltering
in a little cafe, sipping bad coffee
made more palatable with cream.
That’s where I saw you surfing
in my mind’s eye,
feeling that smelting sun sink
beyond an ocean of glass.
We had just enough time
to assess our few days
in the company of a Buddha.
At least that’s what we said, if I recall,
and that we, too, might be Bodhisattvas!
And who’s to say we weren’t right?
Even now, when I play that album,
I keep looking at the picture
of the kind-looking man, all smiles,
with the sweet and beaten guitar.
He still looks an awful lot like you
My home is a castle in need, because
of who I am, for all that went before.
Living close to a sea I rarely saw,
I rode bikes, losing trees, clothes on the way,
all scale of self to glimpse some grey ocean,
a lone redshank wail from his muddy creek
and rise into blanket skies, scorning me.
I didn’t know then, nor do I pretend
to know now exactly what’s hurting me,
but the funk of youth is bitterness now.
The shining ship which might’ve saved me, white
sails riding threshold waves — it didn’t come.
Abandoned, the sailor who never was,
behind terse barricades, counting the days