saltmarsh community, u.k., may 2020

Harrriet Tarlo

with grateful thanks to the people of the Fitties, particularly Caroline Carr and Katie Teakle who gave words here

 

 

going down through

 

we’ve been very lucky here – had very few cases

i expect it’s the sea air

 

sandy grassland bright trefoils, patternings of whites –

stitchwort, queen ann’s lace, and milkwort

bracted pink through green swathing

 

i don’t have the energy I did – it’s been so silent, no traffic

how it would have been, the sky bluer –

you re-look, re-visit

 

past sea buckthorns holding dunes with their roots

 old papery webs wound around spines and spikes

before bud, before leaf, before berry

 

my life is really small now, small and quiet – the day is the day

it’s comforting to me thinking that everybody else is

doing the same thing

 

looking out over the sands bright cord grass colonising

sand under water out of water setting roots setting

mud flat wedges into marsh flagging up

 

the coastguard were saying don’t come

it’s treacherous here at the best of times and

the water fowl are breeding, all the birds and amphibians

 

pale early white-pink thrift flowers within flower

out of bronze sheath under singing lark sky 

 

they miss their family, they’re a really close family

you know – we hear him singing to

his grandchildren on the phone

 

 sea arrowgrass clumps pools wet edges, stalks spiking out of

leaf-curves into the wind, just making early purples

tiny separate globes under strong sun

 

this place has been rolled over because people

are tender and they’re not knowing

and they’ve been rolled over

 

into the marsh heart of golden creek & pool

 

shielding, staying put – but he’s still doing

his 6000 steps round the garden

every day the same

 

points of white, english sea scurvygrass angelica with a catch

and a tapering, single serration distinguishes

separation from self

 

she was hardly eating but I’m cooking anyway

so I’m bullying her into it – it’s just a matter

of sorting out what she can’t eat

 

deep green ovals of sea lavender’s broad lush leaves –

not even a bud yet – up through grey-green mosaic of purslane’s

spread rosettes, soft-sharp elliptical leaves sending salt out, dropping colour

 

we’re more vulnerable because more remote but

I’ve never been a hot house flower –

yes I stayed

 

the further out in the open you – tide low – samphire just surfacing

among last year’s skeletons, pushing wet pink-brown up

globular not yet branching

 

you’ve still got the air here

even if you can’t get

to the sea

 

across mud flats, salt pans, creek’s edges

according to light & tide

just like last year

 

 

Harriet Tarlo is a poet and academic. Her single author poetry publications are with Shearsman Press and estrucan books, and her artists’ books with Judith Tucker are published by Wild Pansy Press. Cut Flowers is forthcoming with Guillemot Press, 2021. She edited The Ground Aslant: An Anthology of Radical Landscape Poetry (2011) and special features on ecopoetics for How2 and Plumwood Mountain. She is Professor of Ecopoetry and Poetics at Sheffield Hallam University, U.K.

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