[On my birthday]
At low tide like this how sheer the water is.
White, crumbling ribs of marl protrude and glare
and the boats are dry, the pilings dry as matches.
Absorbing, rather than being absorbed,
the water in the bight doesn’t wet anything,
the colour of the gas flame turned as low as possible.
One can smell it turning to gas; if one were Baudelaire
one could probably hear it turning to marimba music.
The little ocher dredge at work off the end of the dock
already plays the dry perfectly off-beat claves.
The birds are outsize. Pelicans crash
into this peculiar gas unnecessarily hard,
it seems to me, like pickaxes,
rarely coming up with anything to show for it,
and going off with humorous elbowings.
Black-and-white man-of-war birds soar
on impalpable drafts
and open their tails like scissors on the curves
or tense them like wishbones, till they tremble.
The frowsy sponge boats keep coming in
with the obliging air of retrievers,
bristling with jackstraw gaffs and hooks
and decorated with bobbles of sponges.
There is a fence of chicken wire along the dock
where, glinting like little plowshares,
the blue-gray shark tails are hung up to dry
for the Chinese-restaurant trade.
Some of the little white boats are still piled up
against each other, or lie on their sides, stove in,
and not yet salvaged, if they ever will be, from the last bad storm,
like torn-open, unanswered letters.
The bight is littered with old correspondences.
Click. Click. Goes the little dredge,
and brings up a dripping jawful of marl.
All the untidy activity continues,
awful but cheerful.
I have a rather literary weekend coming up: tomorrow evening I will meet the organisers of Moffat Book Events, a new venture which sounds quite exciting. On Saturday I'm to spend the day at a conference organised by NAWE and CCA for graduates of creative writing degrees from Scottish Universities. I'm a bit trepidatious about this as it starts at 9.30 in the morning. I'll have to set my alarm for about 6 to get there on time, so I'll be in serious danger of blindly stoving into people. By the end of the conference I'll probably have pissed off all the nice writers I went to commune with.