Helen Evans



Night crossing

The causeway’s unlit,
the tide’s an hour gone
and there’s nobody here
to illuminate

the salt-worn poles
of the Pilgrims’ Way
or to prove
the tarmac goes on.

(Third place, Manchester Cathedral Prize, 2010)



In drifts like dead leaves, too many to count,
they mark the tide-line all along the sands:
blackened plaice, the length of grown men’s hands,
trawled up, immersed in air, then thrown back drowned.

Caught up with them, razor clams and whelks.
Lost net-floats. Plastic bottles. Brittle stars.
Kelp, its fronds and holdfasts caked in tar.
The broken-edged remains of scallop shells,

and small, dismembered crabs: the newly killed
just turning green, abandoned by the gulls;
the old, all carapace and barnacles.
And sea urchins, stripped bare, like sand-filled skulls.

(First published in The North, Issue 51)



I spent that summer pigeonholing cheques
into alphanumerical order
behind the cramped machine-room’s half-closed blinds,
leaving at five to clock up thirty lengths,
each nine breast-strokes long, my goggled face
gulping in gobbets of air above water,
snorting out lustre-walled bubbles below,
again, and again, until I somehow stopped

pushing forwards – swam as though suspended
in the gap between one moment and the next,
hauling the pool’s far blue edge towards me
with each heave of my arms, sensing the earth’s
curvature scroll past on either side, then
watching myself from above, streamlined and flowing.