A shuttered town is now how many
seabirds can crowd on a roof-ridge.
Are they seabirds, or disorders? Their
incessant squabbling suggests
there are more seabirds per ridge-tile
than ridge-tiles crowning the ridge.
There are more flatfooted feet up
there than throats to yodel or yell.
Though all these mouths are open
everything else in the town is shut.
I dreamt the North Sea had come so
far inland, but it was not at all clear
what had been washed up with the
crabs in a vest of sea snails and weed:
if it had a sleeve, it was around its
neck; if it had a mouth, it was open.
The North Sea tilted yellow-grey,
nibbled at pier-stilts, regained its balance,
but forgot where it was when it broke,
tilted in one movement and rose. It
tilted on its pivot from west to east,
then it tilted from east to west.
It rose through the shut up town.
The fish leapt through the letterbox.
Tim Liardet is the Professor of Poetry at Bath Spa University and has twice been nominated for the TS Eliot Prize. His latest collection is “Arcimboldo’s Bulldog” (Carcanet).
This article appears in the 02 Mar 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Hero of our Times