There were shifting flocks on the winter shore.
I saw the gulls, knot, turnstone and yet more
Fish-skinned waders shuffling and skittering
Along the spumed-up tide-edge shimmering.
Late in the afternoon with most light gone;
And people too with just me left alone.
The winter shore, rock-strewn, raked by the wind;
Rustling silver sanderling and dunlin
Make this seascape primevally arctic.
With no thought of anything poetic
To convey such wild bleakness and glory,
Sixty years on, I live this history.
The winter beach, my one escape from home.
Life-frayed decades have passed since there I’d roam.
Myself, birds and a lonely cold refrain
Would release my ‘little idiot’ brain
To where I could wonder and be free.
Then came a Sibelius symphony!
His Fourth cleans the world of humanity
And brings a storm of Finnish melody.
Terrible landscapes to thrill Beethoven -
Whose Sixth conjures up a serene haven.
But here, it’s clean-aired, bird-wand’ring, wind-raw
Oh, this limitless roaming winter shore.
An endless horizon of grey-flecked sea
Teases on the wandering soul to be
Engulfed. Consumed by such intimacy,
I won’t erase that lonely memory
Of such a life imagined before me.
The birds arise and that will ever be.
Out from the shore, scudding over water
Lo! There! Eider, scaup, merganser, scoter,
Behind grey waves, bob in and out of view,
Drifting and dozing, head to tail in queues.
From some other mysterious world these
Birds bring buoyant charm and ride out the freeze.
I will go again to the lonely sea and sky
Once more this winter but with no ship sailing by.
Feel again the salt-smacked wind and the stinging rain.
See wildfowl drift and waders edge their tide-terrain
To skitter off on flashing wings of icy fire
And leave me to recall their melancholy cries.
© R M Meyer
Devon, February-March 2019