The Storm

As if in anger, or tears
of retribution, great
gusts of rain have hit this house
all afternoon.  We bought
kindling and coal for an
unfamiliar fire from a
cold hardware byre.

This afternoon, out beyond
the headland, behind
the squat white cottage with its
leaking roof of thatch, its
three rooms, range at one end
and iron bedsteads, where
old framed pictures of faces
long gone stared at us from
white roughcast walls, and worn
rusting tools and wooden stalls told
tales of animals and hardship, the sea
surged grey and stony, iced 
with mobile white.

It looked more dangerous now
than it did
under a blue sky, the white
frills benign from the dunes
and, behind glasses, the sun's 
unusual brown corona, laced
circumference of white
fringed clouds, called down
a warning:

   the step in and body hit
   told sea-strength unfamiliar
   and ignored by city eyes with
   benign remembrances of 
   southern seas.  She swam 
   between the high breakers, too few strokes,
   bowled in and down by
   waves just giving 
   enough breathing air to go
   under again, undertow
   grabbing legs and dragging
   further from the shore -

I was beyond him then, and
   leaving - voice hoarse with
   calling his name over and over, 
   benedicite, he came and I clung
   on, no strength to get
   further, board heaving. 

I sit now, wind
gusting, the one tree
dancing and waving as if
it would uproot -
and the fire is healing: still

my lungs hurt and it will
take more washes to get
salt out of veins.  It did not
claim me yesterday, that
strong sea that made me
insignificant, leaving.

Solid ground beneath my feet
today, and strength
to walk it
our ancient defence
against the immediate storm

hitting this place like a
or a blessing after
in depths of mobile green.
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