The sea turns its beautiful face away, turns its lily-face to the sun.
The sea gets cat-close, its muscles ripple under fur as it stalks off alone.
In the sea-mirror waves are clouds, whale moon, spaceships polystyrene
islands of debris. In the sea-mirror your hand is fairground-strange.
The sea is a graffiti artist, writes huge in impossible places. How the sea
exaggerates – the bully is more of a tyrant at sea, the calm more stilled.
The sea is a good mother, she practises benign neglect. The sea will not
pick up your socks, can read your face for lies. You are leaky with sea.
You may add yourself to the sea, you may hang from railings, cry and cry
into its waves, it will not love you. It cares nothing for your affinity.
We used to think the sea romantic, how it filled the space between us, gave us
mismatched accents to talk all night with. We flew across it thoughtless,
minds on airport kisses. Now you are miniscule on the shore. The sea is an eye
and I am spiteful as the sea, blinking you away.
Anna Kisby is a poet and archivist living on the south coast of England. This poem was a response to the question ‘How would you describe the sea to someone who hasn’t seen it before?’ posed by Claire Trévien on her Poetry School online course ‘Deep Diving: the Language of Coastlines and the Sea’ in 2015.