Monday, 19 February 2018


His left hand reached down for what felt like the thousandth time to check the box. Wedged between the handbrake and the passenger seat the sandalwood rectangle was still there. He wasn’t even aware that he was checking anymore, his fingertips finding some sort of comfort from its smooth grain.

He had followed the current of the motorway without thinking, the wave upon wave of oncoming headlights skimming angular shadows across the inside of the car. With thunderheads behind him he had driven through the night. One stop to fill the tank, grab a coffee, and keep moving.

With no plan, no destination, he had simply drifted, letting the straight road cast his course. When dawn had risen on his right, he had headed toward the brighter horizon, assuming he would run out of land at some point.

As the sun fully rose he had washed up at the coast, pulling into the small, almost deserted beachside car park. The scent of the wooden box had enveloped him with a dusty sweetness of exotic spices. Opening the car door the astringent sea air had almost brought him to his senses. Almost.

He took off his shoes and socks, left them neatly in the drivers footwell, and walked across the sand towards the retreating tide, the lugworm castings collapsing beneath his arches. The box was clutched tightly under one arm as he walked into the sea, and emptied its contents into the willing water.

The Thick Dust of Forgetting

When I was seven my younger brother was given a very ordinary looking small brown teddy bear, and as he squeezed and hugged it he in turn was squeezed and hugged by our mother. At that moment I felt hatred so pure it consumed me. I drew a picture of myself holding that bear and held it tight to my chest in bed and wished and wished it was mine. That wish never came true.

By twenty-six I had found a man, in his own way a little furry like a bear, and married him. By thirty I was childless and he was dying. I threw a coin into a box, rang a bell, clapped my hands and sharpened my needs to a pinpoint of longing. But in the end we flew home, me in coach, him in my luggage.

I had to find a sports shop that sold climbing equipment to buy a bag of chalk. I tipped the chalk on the kitchen floor and poured the ashes on top. Slowly I mixed them, spread them, and drew a giant teddy bear in their dryness. I lay down and prayed to join him. That prayer never came true.

Today I walked past a charity shop window and saw a teddy bear, as similar and as vivid as ever my remembering could be. A prompt for these old memories, all thick with dust.

I wonder if tomorrow I should go back and buy that bear.


Autonomous Selfing in Cayton Bay by Paul Hodgson


The surfers are on the back water as we stutter down the concrete path. The spray glints off the wave backs with the offshore wind.

We look for a clear spot between families, far enough from soggy dogs. So many outsiders sat on our sand. They weren’t here when the wind ripped through winter coats. Fidelity.

An eye corner tells me she is looking at the eldest son of a family a little further down the beach. We go to our usual spot. Loyalty

I’ve brought a blanket and some bottles and we sit down to listen to the waves and watch the people. She sits close, shuffling up until her head is laid on my shoulder and we stay locked, embraced. After a while I’m uncomfortable and need to move, and realise why she sat on my right, to look down the beach at that family. That’s when I know I’ve lost her, and that the town has lost her, but its fruit set looks high this year.

Visual Verse 3-12


He had a black leather heart, he’d said

and I had promised him I could change that

believing in myself it was true.

We played the emotional strip poker of life

and I thought I was winning

but his hand was stronger.

For every item dropped

he had another reason to hide himself

until I laid bare and broken.

I don’t know which way to turn anymore

when he tells me he still loves me

cross stitch my heart and hope to die.

Visual Verse 3-2


Periodic depth and darkness envelop

From core to thoughts to deed

Breath crushed, and lungs

Full fathom deep and think

You can keep your black dog

During better times I’ve gravel cast my roe

Tidal banked and cared for

I need to catch

My iridescent fish

And follow his light home

Visual Verse 3-1


The farmer had never travelled further than the county line. A life time of working the land, tending the hearth and raising crops and children. A triangle of life between home, field and ale house.

For forty years he’s stopped for one. One leads to two and two to four. He was as much a part of the ale house as it was of him.

It was a spit and sawdust affair, but had been built in better times by a merchant seaman. There were casks of beer and cider and not much else. The bar he leant on as he took his draught was a deep and smooth mahogany brought back from Brazil. Shelves and dusty niches held the contents of that sailor’s life, shells and scrimshaw, corals and cutlasses. He had been the son of the local landowner who rather than following in his fathers footsteps had taken his own path. He had travelled the world for twenty years and returned to an estate in a state of collapse. He had cut his losses, sold everything apart from one plot of land and built this tavern, filling it with his memories and the treasures of his travels.

Across the wall behind the bar he had hung a sea bleached fragment of the skull of a whale. The cavernous eye socket had been stuffed with a wooden sherry cask once filled with a glorious Irish whiskey. And then the sailor had drunk himself into oblivion. His name was lost to memory now. That had all been many years ago and the ale house had passed from hand to hand time after time and barely changed. It remained the tar pit for a continuous stream of unfulfilled dreams.

The farmer had always meant to leave, to travel, to see the whole world beyond that county line. So many fellow drinkers had listened to the wistful tales of what he would do one day, but they had all fallen by the wayside.

He had saved what little he could for a year now and had taken it to mind that he wanted to taste that whiskey, to take a couple of shots from the eye of the whale. It was money that could be better spent, God knows his children needed it, but this thing he wanted for himself.

The cask was almost empty now and the liquor poured slowly. Pure and golden it glistened in the firelight as the barman filled a tumbler.

As the farmer took the first slow sip he stared into the vacant socket and saw the world through the eye of another. Felt the draw of time and tide across so many sea voyages. Distances were as nothing to this giant of the oceans, and the farmer’s new sense of scale put the span of his life and importance of his dreams beyond imagining.

When he drained the glass his head was full but he was empty inside.

Visual Verse 3-3


At 7 he had his very first experience of a beach. It was the perfect day, a sunny drive across the moors, chips and ice-cream, the deathly menace of the gulls, cold wet sand and a shoulder blistering sun. But the waves. Oh how he loved the sounds of those waves.

At 12 his parents somehow sprung for a foreign holiday. Universal sign language, warm evenings eating out as the sun set, late nights, a family more relaxed and adventurous than he had even known before. The villa was a stone's throw from the beach, pebbly though it was. Falling asleep to the glorious sound of those waves, to the roll of the smooth ground rocks. Breath in time to the swell of the ocean.

At 24 a bonfire on a distant beach. Food and beer, laughing carefree travelling companions who would come and go over those weeks, names long forgotten. Barefooted and shirtless, the fire heat on one side the cool sea washed air caressing him from the other. And the sound of those waves, hidden by the inky horizon, but rhythmic and calming, and almost touchable. Propped against a log he dozed, beer in hand, and was taken into sleep by the ocean itself.

At 44 he stood and watched his younger self dive and play in the calm warm of the Mediterranean as his wife looked on, half in his world and half her own. He swam and played and surfed, but longed for the abandonment and pure joy of being that child again. The surface almost mirror flat but if you stopped, made the time to listen, it was always there. The almost silence of his own blood welcoming the heart beat of the sea.

At 76 the click and beep of machinery, the silent drip from the intravenous bag held high by shining chrome scaffold. End stages now as his wife sits beside him and his son uses his phone to played the soundtrack of the sea. The sound of time passing, the real rhythm of the world to let him drift to sleep.