Beachworld

Written by: Charlotte Puddifoot

Silent in its violence, the sun
lays its ancient fire hand on the heat-scoured
concrete of the promenade,
the boxy seafront chalets tilting and creaking at angles,
the scorched, salt-stiffened gardens,
sand dunes, the screaming blue sea.
It is so difficult to accept a loss, a deprivation.
Innocence flaps its winding sheet behind me,

its mummy cloth of myth.
As from an isolated moon I see
the first cold breaker rush to engulf me:
an underwater undulance,
undercurrents of menace, of malice.
The sand-strewn strand stretches into infinity,
shimmering with the visions, the voices, the echoes,
the faceless departments of government and society.

I watch the insouciant people around me,
they possess a flatness, like blank paper.
They hump and lug plastic picnic paraphernalia,
ridiculously, all beach grime and blistered backs,
reduced to a red cindery glow.
Ice creams, scooped from the freezers
in trinkety seashore shops,
are clutched in sunburned hands.

They are spreading striped sunbathing mats,
snide and smiling slyly.
Is it a mirage, a delusion,
plucked from the desert-dry air?
The air snags in my throat: the flat summer stench
of warm wood, sun lotion, billowing cotton -
blank but expansive; the creaking, the flapping.
A strange wind howls and banters in my ear.

And the train shrieks through its station -
the station of my brain -
a riddled red abyss, poker-hot.
The sun is sinking:
a disc of fire, a blood clot.
Water floods the ridgy shallows,
eddying into treacherous pits.
The black gun muzzle of my mouth

flays the oxygen from the air.
My nerves a hive of wires suffering
the scarlet atrocities.
Pokers put out my eyes.
Squeezed by the forceps of agony
I see nothing, nothing
but a mirage of wavering dunes closing in
and the sea splintering; a multitude of glass glittering.