The sensations of sea and air and sand are what come first when I close my eyes and remember this summer of Atlantic beaches. The slam and lift and ceaseless pounding of a sea at full surge. Hot blue air that burned skin and bleached hair. Salt in eyes and hair and on lips already roughened by the battering of tiny particles of sand and shell that flew on the wind. Utter happiness.
And now, as we tilt further into this new year and towards the final months of dark and cold, I turn to our own english coastline. Coat and scarf replace swimwear and boots hide bare feet but when the sun slants low and the waves pound hard in a wind that makes hair a nuisance, it's as if bodily atoms reform to their proper shapes. It feels good.
The sill is peppering with storm-flies.
Colours deepen. Too close. Time to change.
Shed your clothes like pointless wings.
Now it's just the weight of you.
Rocks, sun, waves have kept a place for you.
Expecting guests? No matter. Go.
Feet on the brink. Avoid brushing earth
from your soles. Some trace of it
can cross the border with you:
flecks of other people on your skin and hair,
their wounds in your scars.
Their memories? The ones they told you.
Look down. Don't. It's up to you.
If you can treat the view as abstract, then
reach up with your arms, as if this was
less dive, more surrender,
less surrender, more ascension. Stretch
until your heels lift from the sandstone.
Technically, this is the crux.
You are living a half-life between
two elements. You may wish at this stage
to be photographed or painted.
Now you know what your solidity is for:
so gravity has something to work with.
You begin to melt, head first,
hair diffusing, clear lines of your form
dissolving. But you gain slow-motion.
Everyone looks graceful underwater.
Out in the nick of time, the strong sun
reconstitutes you. Back. Round your mouth,
a lick of salt. At home, casement
windows bang. Net curtains haunt the rooms.
Your visitors stand in their coats,
looking for a note, a trace of you.
(extracts from Anatomy of a Perfect Dive - the last poem in Corpus. Michael Symmons Roberts)