FOOT ON THE BEACH
Laughing like a twisted plimsoll
You ran soft skinned through the sand
To a bundle of gently blown clothes.
You crossed a barrier of pebbles
As if on hot coals.
Picked up a few pebbles for your pocket.
Felt their wholeness, round and firm.
Your expressions faded as you dressed
And as you tied the laces tighter
Round your tongue,
Solemn evening killed the sun.
This poem was first published in DORIS magazine, issue 9, in 1975. Doris was a brilliant alternative community magazine published in Norwich.
‘Foot On The Beach’ became a signature poem of mine by default. Because I am male, it may appear to be about a young female, but the ambiguity is precisely because the subject is sexless – or that, as a child growing up, it doesn’t much matter, in universal terms, whether you’re male or female. And, the bottom line is that the poem is about myself (as a kind of universal “myself.”)
The poem became important to me as it sparked a theme which ran on for a dozen years or more: the notion that the edge (the beach) is the freedom strived for – a tiny strip between the sea (death) and the inland (work, life, conformity). I played this idea out many times through scores of poems: all rivers lead to the sea (and death) but memory and imagination work the other way round: away from the sea to go upstream – ending up in work and conformity! Hence, a foot on the beach.
The theme died when I ended up actually living next to the sea in Lowestoft. What an irony!