The North Devon coast, I remember now,
stretched wide beneath high summer sky.
In my late youth, childhood still in reach,
often I went down those steep stone steps
to study what the tides had left behind,
on the hard sand of Barricane Beach.
I bent my back, lifted with care,
a pebble from a rock pool floor,
my hope to find a crab.
Never had I seen such shells before.
I loved their colours and shapes.
I know now, I did not know then,
they were wave carried from the Caribbean.
It was as if the ocean had chosen the beach called Barricane
to store a hoard of exotic shells,
washed them in from a far south island.
The beach was sheltered, secluded, certainly,
embraced by stone arms, cliffs wind and water carved.
Better than postcards, I thought,
I sent shells nestled in cotton wool,
packed tight in envelopes with letters,
written rough on paper sheets,
to friends back home in Liverpool.
In my mind I can go and go again,
down to that beach called Barricane.
One late summer night, stood there alone,
I found a luminous pod.
Among the pebbles, washed by the last line of waves,
it shone like the shard of a star.
Back in my bedroom, placed on my window sill,
it glowed white, looked magical.
Next day I felt guilt, to have separated it from its liquid home.
I made my way to Barricane Beach,
threw it back in the ocean.
Was a strange relief to see and feel the splash,
sense the loss, the blank cold of vanishment.
What it was I never knew, not a naturalist to know.
The sea gulls grown large enough to gorge on ocean fish,
sublime to me when they circled and cried,
high and low over lines of waves,
truly like the calls of lost sailor souls.
Comical were those I watched swoop inland,
some to perch on the roof of the Red Barn café.
They stared down on humans, sat below, at tables in the open air.
One to be the thief of a discarded egg and cress sandwich,
another a scavenger of a bag of fish and chips.
Who knows what the investigator of the garbage bins will become,
eater of the last cob crust to the final crumb?
Their brains too small to have a fault,
perfect are they, from beak to webbed feet.
In my mind, it is never out of reach.
I go back to see what time can teach,
faraway, down there, on Barricane Beach.