No damp sand to sculpt into castles or schooners,
only stones the size of fists,
ready to twist the unwary ankle.
She wouldn’t have walked far this way.
Grey sky is pooled in cupped nooks in the rocks
bare of knuckled crabs, the quick shadows of tiddlers.
They clasp only smudged grey cloud
on their crenulated surface.
Nothing to hold a child for long.
The sea is cobbled granite
patched with a scrim of white plaster.
The tarpaulin hem of coast
is folded onto the shore.
Kelp lies piled like wet dogs’ pelts.
An armada of rocky islets slice the surface.
She wouldn’t swim so far.
Could a child be plucked unwilling by the tide,
dragged out, buoyed up by a pink M&S cagoule,
snagged by rocky fingers?
Could a girl cling unobserved to the blind side
until sucked away by greedy waves?
The wind on the headland steals my ever wilder cries,
snatches the child’s name from my lips.
She would not have come so far.
‘Fleet’ was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition, April 2012.