This was a recent entry for a spoken word competition through Shortbread it wasn’t successful as it was considered too quiet for the actual show but I had a complimentary comment and thought that I would share it.
The Tay Bridge was the scene of a railway disaster and the Tentsmuir Forest is an area of natural beauty. I tried with this piece to marry the peace and beauty with the memory of horror and disaster
The sand is warm, it isn’t often so, we are too far north, but today the soft beach puffs around my toes as I spin in a slow circle, hands outstretched, head thrown back.
The sky is a pale basin above me, wisps of white stretch and coil on the summer wind it’s one of those skies that you don’t believe in until you see it yourself.
Slowly, slowly I lower my head. Creeping upwards now into my field of vision are the high tops of the pines, deep, deep green against the azure background. I hear them singing to the sky, a sussuration on the edge of hearing, a beautiful sound, natural, organic and free.
Lower and lower, now I see the bent and tortured bulk of the weaker trees and gorse bushes leaning against remembered gales, collapse threatening, next time, next time.
Now my knees bend and crumple and I sit amongst the dunes. The song of the trees is a gentle echo in the whisper of the grasses. Listen to us, we can tell you of the sea, roaring and pounding before the winter wind, ah the wind. We can tell you of the birds and the fish and the peace and the fury.
I hope the seals will come, it is almost time and if luck is with me they will slide onto the beaches, dragging and pulling with flippers that are totally unsuited to the task and yet perform it well. Yes, yes they are coming, I see them, dark humps amidst the coruscations. Each time the thrill is the same, my breath is suspended by the wonder of it until dizziness reminds me that I need oxygen. Frozen in delight I watch them fill the beaches, the noise is unbelievable, wonderful and I allow my lids to close, the better to listen to my oceanic brothers as they snort and argue under the sun. A blessing and a thrill.
Gulls and trees and whispering sands and the cough and snuffle of sea creatures.
Flopping back now I rest against the dune, yes my hair will be matted with sand, yes my clothes will rasp and chafe at my skin on the walk home but right now I want to be one with it, I want to sink down and be a part of the whole, the beach and the forest and the sea. I remember as my body touches the earth, his hand in mine, his gentle lips and the heat of his body the last time we came and he told me of his love and hope for the future. Now that he was working for the railway all was possible and we would be together forever, I can hear his voice now asking me to be his wife…
The sky is deepening, the blue is richer and the clouds have flown. The gulls wheel and scream as they ready for the journey to the roosting places, for me the fear is starting. I have to stay, my brain tells me to leave now, to go home and sit in the firelight and simply think of him but today is his birthday and so I will stay. Tonight I will stay until the light has gone, see I have brought a lamp, I mean to spend the night.
The air is cooler now and I need a woollen shawl around my shoulders, the shivering is only the change in air temperature, it is simply physical. I can do this, it is summer, many months away from the dreadful anniversary in December. I pray that there will be nothing tonight, that the world won’t remember the screech of metal, no creak of tortured girders or explosion of steam, tonight I won’t hear them as they plunge to their deaths in the greedy river. Last year I heard them calling to me, crying in anguish as they were swept by the angry water and I fled in fear before the spectres but his memory has brought me back. Love for him and duty forces me to sit in the cooling sand and bear witness. Maybe after tonight I will see the bridge wreckage on my way home and I will know they are at peace, all of them, the forty-six we laid to rest and the others like him who were never brought away from the water. If I can stay and listen to the sush of water against the sand, the trees and the reeds, if I can hold my nerve in the dark and face my fear and remember only his smile and his arms around me as he left for work that day maybe then I will know that they rest in peace, my lover and his friend the fireman and all the other passengers if I am brave enough to stay maybe I can see them safe home.