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June 2006, vol 2 no 2

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Jane Whittle Wales

Fron Goch (The Red Slope)

Imagine a place where a small creek has tumbled from the hills into an abandoned slate quarry and suddenly become part of a wide estuary. At low tide the salt flats are a haven for waders and sea birds. As the water rises, it creeps up sinuous channels—silvery light lapping up purple whalebacks of mud and gradually swallowing everything, until the river is part of the sea.

Today the weather is wild. Tinted clouds race across the sky, from blue to black, from sunshine to downpour. Over the river small hill pastures flash like emeralds from rolling cloud shadow.

in streams of light
we wander a strange shore
between cloud and rainbow

We shelter in a dark tunnel under the railway until the rain stops, then step out into a surreal world. This place was once a boat yard but now lorries are parked on the shore. One looks old enough to have pulled a gun carriage on the Somme. Half built or rotting boats lean against the cliff face; dinghies painted with eyes and teeth lie about like stranded fish among tattered tarpaulins, rusty scaffolding and plastic lobster pots. A child's canvas chair has been tied into the remains of a giant paper kite.

broken wings
thin skin fluttering
from bamboo bones

Mildewed caravans, limply curtained windows—do people live here? A wineglass, half full of water, a pink geranium wilting in a pot. "Take care! The tide will come in at 2.45pm. You must clear the foreshore by 4.00pm." What will happen then?

COME TO THE CIRCUS! Of course. TENTS & EVENTS . Not today—only their ghosts today. Ghosts of young, agile and creative fine-weather creatures. One old boat is named Kirsty McColl, a second Compromise.

We make lopsided silhouettes against the shining water—an elderly group. I lean on my walking stick and gaze at the bright fields across the estuary, beyond the rainbow. Suddenly I sense a movement just behind me.

mending her face
in a clapped-out car
the ghost of Kirsty McColl

I move away tactfully and find myself in a graveyard. Sawn-off bones rear up against the sky, a dinosaur skeleton perhaps, leaning from twisted girders.

monster bones
or the ribs of giant ships
dreaming of Vikings

So many broken things lie at our feet, so many big ideas, young hopes, creations and entertainments—all abandoned.

tangled young dreams
£1 per metre per week
sinking in quick sand

Will they come back, like the tide, in the spring, with children and dogs and plans for a new season? Meanwhile, winter is coming. We pick our way back through the debris of their absence, looking forward to tea in a warm house. The stir of other people's imagined adventures has left us feeling tired. The estuary is full of water now, leaden under a darkening sky.

we run out of words
taking cover from deluge
under an old ark


This haibun was also posted on the Redthread Haiku Sangha Website