To find new love’s phrases, I must unravel my beforetime,
retrace beachwalks scarred with footprints long wave-washed,
lost to time as those dunes I waited by. Whales breached at tide-swell,
a picture made perfect though no one was there to bear witness
to all that stretched out and away for miles, deserted but for me,
but for her racing down a coastline on a continent that couldn’t hold.
And, babe, I’ve confessed all this to you, how I tried to build
a world for her, and was found wanting; her daydreams, my to-do list
to fulfil her ambitions and maybe my life would render itself real.
That beach-bright day was more brisk than remembered in the few photos
that survive, in one she moves away from me, her shoulders set for travel
in that way of hers, realising a method she had only ever dreamed of ˗
a horse-fast gallop up a strand, hair foam-wet and flying, spray whipped up
and her unmoored from her seat, released from the earth I thought held her.
I waited, like I always did, feet displacing sand, sandals swept to the side,
Garcia Marquez’ words held between finger and thumb, promises enough
to counterfeit fidelity, proof of how one body can find another,
the ways that mortal blood rises hot as a threat. Will I find myself
in those pictures, my eyes shaded, smile unsure and bright. Could I
point out the fault lines that would lay my plans to wreck. I’d tell that vessel
how a decade in the distance, my mind will come to rest and all will quiet
beside you, the one whose approach I would never see coming. And
in these days of fret and panic, I take courage in how you sleep the hours away,
safe but missing from my hold. I take heart in how you build your world yourself.
Liz Quirke is a poet and scholar. Salmon Poetry published her debut collection The Road, Slowly in 2018 and her second collection How We Arrive In Winter will be published in late 2020. Say hello to Liz on twitter.