His hair is light as cloud bleached by sea-spit,
skin the colour of roast suckling pig –
whittles a stick of green beech, smells strong:
man sweat, Speight’s Old Dark, chewed cheroot.
Says his father has plant-cunning.
Herbs grow like family here; brother root, sister leaf
hide and seek him under cob trees, rock mazes,
wrap of meadow, guile of night.
Best time to pick is with the ancestors beside you,
the right knife, heart open to the magic.
There’s true protection then, from faithless wives,
kidney stones, tortuous births and the worst . . .
He makes the sign of a jaw, tall as a lych gate –
Great White. His father always walks behind
to ward off such swallowings. But we’re nowhere
near the sea; just scrub, flat as an open palm.
Then he tells how the land can boil rougher
than sea anger, shoot waves in concentric circles,
hurling flotsam: brick, skulls, car bonnets.
All you see are the fins, splitting seams.
Last week they took a child, only four months old,
wrapped her in a white box with roses,
lilac, forget-me-nots, winched her gently down
into the jaws that cracked her.