Stephen Robertson

Slanting Lines

Shingle Street

The sea is never still.  Even in my sleep

I hear the ground-swell gently break and sift,

pushing the shingle back and forth and to and fro,

in a flat calm air.  A winter storm

brings wild mountains of water crashing down

to redefine the contours of the shore.

Around the river mouth the tides run strong.

Channels and banks of shingle shift and melt,

form and reform each ebb and flow, each moonphase

and each season (the navigation buoys must needs

be relocated every spring, the charts


The line of pebble-dunes protects

a calmer green oasis, band of salt-marsh

where barn-owls hunt their prey.  But not for long

—impermanence’s permanence the rule.

Change will last forever.

At intervals along the south horizon

container ships in stately progress pass

destined for Harwich or for Felixstowe.