Poetry: Galatea | clivejames.com
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When you left, and I was thinner-skinned
I stayed in bed for weeks and cried and cried...
While rigging whined and rattled in the wind
I scrunched alone through broken bottles, claws,
The bleached brittle crusts of starfish, crab —
A salt-rich tide of little deaths — and I could hear,
In that click-click of pebbles when the sea withdraws
Her high heels on the pavement. That was the end of us...
Back down “on business”,  I take a bus
Past the shut-down shop-fronts and collapsing pier
To the beach, the little café where I wrote

(So long ago!) “through wood and weeds, washed up
Like bottles, torn shoes and a plastic cup
We walked without a word, and parted”, and I choke
On the smells of vinegar, and steam, and smoke —
Outside, a salt drizzle blurs those shelves
Where the clattering hiss of shingle meets the sigh
And roar of water, where on hot days we used to lie
Like sea-creatures on the sea-bed, their ultrasound
Antennae groping, or the fish we saw
Laid glistening on the fishmonger’s slab
But could not afford to eat — how we starved ourselves

For love, learning, poetry! How ill-informed
And unreasonable we were, how raw!
Is she waiting for me, on the scrubby bit of ground
Where I got her to agree the thing had died
And she ran off, crying, in the rain —
Staring as she used to when she lay awake
And listened to that squat colossus, watched it rake
Our bedroom with its cyclops eye? — A giant claw
Gouged up sea-floor gravel, dug up the drowned;
A generator throbbed like a migraine,
In the harbour, tugs and dredgers swarmed...

Or at the Metropole, twice married,
Reading Persuasion over tea, her smile remote,
Benign? No, she is spindrift, carried
On the wind, the voice of one ill wind or another
That blows me and my leaking boat no good —
Whenever you go out, in your little craft of wood,
Your little craft of words, it will be me you hear,
It will be me reminding you of how you scorned your mother
And all women who loved you (God knows why),
It will be me reminding you that you will die,
It will be me reminding you of everything you fear.