“Sea Drift” by Eileen Berry

Eileen Berry


They would sit, two or three of them as a rule, on the cast-iron seat
they called a form, that stood at the end of the road to the sea
where it petered out in a dirt track through salt marsh,
disappeared in sand.
Old men now: dark clothes and rough workboots worn from habit, faces
scarred by wind and sun from days on the boats.
Stranded somehow in this place as if, like seaweed, they had washed
up on shore at high tide.
Survivors from a world once theirs.

Somewhere in nearby stone cottages, with modern extensions at the back
and sides to accommodate indoor plumbing, were daughters or daughters-
in-law, keeping house, cooking meals, expecting the men home,
at appointed times.
This was the daily routine now.

Out of doors they were free, to rejoice in weather and tides, smell sea
air that was the smell of life: salt, seaweed, sour mud, dead fish,
churned-up sand; to feel the whip of wind on their skin.
Gulls circling and swooping in the wide skies, diving, as they once did
above the shrimp boats as heavy nets were cast into the sea.
The slow pace of nature’s change gave them some kind of peace.

from Rattle #19, Summer 2003

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