Tag Archives: North Devon coast

Armoured Knight

Armoured Knight

Armoured Knight stands guard on my sitting room shelf.
His post was once on my bedroom window sill.
He is part of my past.
An ornament I bought in a gift shop in Woolacombe
on the North Devon coast.
Souvenir of a summer.
1970. I was eighteen. Worked in a hotel kitchen,
my brain blown open by ocean,
I pined to find words for what I could hear in sea gull cries,
far and high in the sky,
yearned to see white sailed boats voyage out from coves
to Atlantis.
Photographs of sunsets never developed well.
My camera could not capture
the hues of heaven I saw on the western horizon.
Armoured Knight I brought home in my haversack.
2017. Sixty five now.
Years ago, I somehow managed to break his lance.
Now his right hand grips only air.
Once I had to glue him back on his black plastic stand.
But why now the mention?
Recently, late one evening, I turned my CD player on,
leaned back in my arm chair.
My body light, forgotten, I attended to song,
became just an eye,
my spirit clasped by the top joint in the stalk of my spine,
aware only of words and notes in the air,
my gaze came to settle on Armoured Knight,
stood guard in his place on my sitting room shelf.
His helmeted head suddenly moulded into a mask.
The mask melted to reveal a bare face,
that of a man, a captain of soldiers.
He stared at the ground. His face pale, bony, stern.
His thought on battlefields behind him,
wars he had witnessed, weapons used by men,
from bow and arrow, sword and spear,
rifle and cannon to machine gun and tank.
He grew more macabre than a ghost,
a foul portent, ill omen,
till he could be given no other name than Death.
There he stood, Death himself.
Cold, battle boned, sword sharp, hard.
The spell broken, the vision vanished.
Armoured Knight restored himself.
An ornament. Nothing more.

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Barricane Beach

Barricane Beach

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.