The tide’s not turning yet

A thing I did for Sunday Miscellany…

For Adrian…

Shattered seashells chatter, ripped by ocean fingers, clawed back to the kelp and the foul ground.

Inch, in grey-mute bands across the lough; imaginary islands piercing the plumed green.

Rooks’ calls deaden hard in the mist; beech leaves creak, drifting to the paths below the swing rope; its twined strands blue and frayed, the tyre wet, slipping hands and bodies into mud puddles; salt water and soft rain.

Sharp cries that scatter the rooks, dogs leaping the rush of waves, chasing spit-soaked sticks and sodden tennis balls, bobbing in the rain-spattered water.

Pier-tied, ropes of manila and hemp, the ships suck salmon fry in clear tubes; fluorescent bodies dodge the sharp angles of floodlights, the diesel shudders the decks. Against the lifebuoy, a sole fisherman drops rod and weights.

I pace the sand, sinking into the gallops, leaning into the cool of the evening. Bladderwrack-wrapped stones split the beach in half at high tide; this night the water has turned and fled the beach and my footsteps form and disappear between the sullen grains.

A red Toyota, white wheels and suspension lowered, is stranded where the ploughs were sharpened; three young men sweat in t-shirts, trying to shift it from the tyre spun-sand; another one sits, door open, jarring the steering wheel from left to right.

‘You’ll need the tractor. Fellah lives just up the road, beyond the hotel.’

‘Jees, thanks man,’ says the driver.

‘You’ll be alright for an hour or more. The tide’s not turning yet,’ I say, the scent of burnt clutch stinging my eyes.

‘Go on Mickey, you go. Your feckin fault.’

‘Aye, alright lads, alright,’ he says, as he staggers to the dune path.

‘Thanks,’ they say again as I walk on.
A jogger travels the hard stretch between waves and flotsam, chancing wet runners and dancing over the fishing net shreds. This end of the beach is quieter; the childrens’ shouts are behind me, the gulls are my only company.

Sheets of bright-white shells creep in sculpted arcs; razor, scallop and limpet, cracked and crushed. Above the tide line, a child’s toy catches my gaze; a green combine harvester, driven by a plastic man, reaping the marram in a sandstorm.

I turn and walk to the edge of the land, blurred in foam. The water is glass; dabs flit away as my first footfall disturbs the chill. I do not sink; my feet stay wet but hold to the surface. The ocean bears my weight; there is no effort walking. Behind me, the chug of the tractor breaks the mist. I tread further on the undulating plain, hearing the young men again.

‘Mickey’s fault, not a wit. Thanks anyhow. Do we owe you?’


‘No, youse are grand.’

‘Aye, well thanks anyway.’

This far out the voices fade to whispers; the waves slap against the fish pens; the scent of ozone, iodine and salt. I turn, the pens my guide, north to the emptiness of the Atlantic. I cannot look back; I will leave the land and become the sea and the mist.

A shadow of petrels skims the swell; the beat of wings brushes my skin. On each side of the lough, car headlights find corners and reach out, tinting the wave tips amber. I walk between the shores as dolphins dart in the dark water beneath me.

I walk between headlands that rear, blasted by hurled winter storms.

I walk far from the seashells and the swinging tyres.

I walk until I am at the horizon and beyond.

The land slips away, the beech leaves are fallen, the tractor is towing the red Toyota.

The tide’s not turning yet.

The tide’s not turning yet.



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