Timeless/Alone - Poem by sal carter
The wind greets you, as soon as you step outside,
it throws litter around the street, spinning bottles in the gutter.
Walking forwards, decked out in 3mm neoprene,
board under one arm,
the road bites into my naked feet, jarring them,
uneven pieces of smashed bottle lie scattered across.
The sky hangs low in shades of grey and black,
Cold, and claustrophobic.
This early in the morning – no one around -
my body still calls for the comfort of bed,
muscles ache for rest, and the weight of the board
feels like a plank of wood, calling.
The neck of the wetsuit tightens around my neck
Constricting my breathing, making me gag
And the wind blows my board like a sail,
Trying to rip it from me.
My hands boil inside stifling gloves,
as the warm wetsuit clings to my skin
its clammy heat, mirrored against the cold
of the wind and air.
I turn onto the beach, and the wind carries the sand
Towards me, hitting my face like tiny bullets,
Making me close my eyes against
It blows my hair around my head,
spinning strands together in my face,
bringing with it salt that coats my hair
like oil, sticking it together,
The wet sand clings to my feet,
gritty and damp, getting under my nails,
while fag butts grace the rock pools,
floating like battleships.
a couple walk their dog, a knotted black Labrador,
while the sand artist stakes out his spot,
and starts crafting an image out of crushed rock,
moulding a white horse from nothing,
the waves curl and crash loudly in front of me,
there are already two or three people out there,
lying on their boards, far out, waiting for waves,
as if sleeping
I lay my board down at the waters edge,
Where broken waves lap around my feet,
I pull neoprene socks onto my feet, trapping the sand in
to rub them raw.
I secure the leash around my leg,
Pulling the Velcro tight, so that it pulls against the skin,
connecting myself to the board so we
are tied together,
my first steps into the water are dry,
till the water reaches my ankles
and floods in, freezing, but cold relief
from the breathless wetsuit
I wade in further, board under arm
Salt spray flicking against my cloth-armoured chest
Kicking out through small waves
trying to trip me.
Till the water reaches up to my waist,
And I lay my board out on the foam,
And push forward through the waves.
Its white hair, frothing behind it,
It rolls, and bucks,
And I push my board out in front of me,
Shielding me, protecting me,
So that the water flows beneath me,
And I fly up over the wave
And crash bodily down,
Onto the salty water.
My stomach rolls over
Inside my wetsuit, pressing against the board,
As the sea pummels around me,
And I lie still, calm, but tensed,
I paddle forward,
Gloved hands digging in,
Pulling me forward,
Dragging me gracefully out,
Lifting me over unbroken waves,
Sending me speeding down them,
Bitter salt lashes across my face,
Wetting my eyes,
Making my face speckled with spray.
The ground falls away beneath my feet,
And I stop
Hang onto my board
Slowly spin it around
This space is timeless,
With no clocks or watches,
Nothing to measure it by but the continuing break of waves,
I am totally alone,
Trapped in a bubble,
While the world moves slowly outside me,
Spinning at a different speed.
Pulses of waves rise and fall beneath me,
Gulls caw overhead,
Spits of rain burn into my cold back,
And the white horses are born, and rise up ahead of my eyes,
Falling, and turning, battling, and joining,
And then dying away,
Burnt out on the sand.
A phalanx of waves roll in from way out,
Great behemoths, coiled with power,
Rising head and shoulders above others,
Feral giants from the outer ocean,
I let the first two pass beneath me,
Waiting for the last, and greatest of the set,
It storms up behind me,
Growing, building up,
I stretch myself out into position,
Tensing my mind,
It roars behind me,
Reaching a strength that would lift me like a log –
And throw down beneath its curling mass if I pulled out now.
I feel the pull of the wave behind me,
Drawing me back,
I lash out with my arms,
And strike the unbroken crest of the wave,
As it rushes to meet me,
I thrust myself forward,
And it pulls me in
Carrying me with it.
I swing my foot forward,
Lift myself up,
The bubble is broken
I speed forward
faster than life,
but staying nailed, to the same piece of water,
The wave rolls
and I balance above
like a knife.
Muscles in my arms,
Legs, and torso,
Drawn in, held,
My whole body and mind,
Sharpened to keep,
the top of the wave
from the left,
Speeding towards me.
Ripping up the peaceful, clear, water,
Shattering the wave.
It breaks beneath me,
And I fall,
Down, down, down,
Dropping down the face of the wave,
Feet pressing hard on the face of the board,
while water smashes like glass beside me and above me
splintered crystal shard flying all around me,
holding me back,
like a diamond cage,
till a slight change in stance,
a twist of the foot,
makes the fin dig into the water once again,
and I fly out,
in front of the wave,
I leap out,
Hands held out like wings,
And the board bucks beneath my feet.
Another twitch of the leg sends me sailing across the face of the wave,
Chasing the breaking foam across the beach,
But never catching it,
Always ahead of myself.
Wind ripping at my hair and face,
Cutting apart the wave along its length,
The inside rail of my board gorging into the wave,
Sending spray across the deck,
Bouncing of the wax.
I pull the board around again,
Shifting my weight quickly from one side of the board to the other,
So that it slices round, in a ninety degree arc,
Kicking up a semi circle of spray,
Ahead of me and behind me,
For a moment it seems like it may be perfect,
Executed to the limit,
But then, the board jumps,
As though its struck a rock in the road
It twists and curls like an injured animal,
thrown of balance.
My feet slip on the waxed deck,
My hands grasping for invisible strings,
And I fall backwards into the hard water.
My head strikes the water first
It Ripples quietly as I pass through,
Before closing up over me.
Noise is suddenly cut off,
So all I can hear is
The sea, washing around my ears,
The distant echo of waves passing above me,
I sink backwards,
My arms held out, like a cross.
The sunlight glimmers, through the water,
Making a 16 point star,
The only light in my world.
The current plays out with my hair,
Washing it around.
The sea-bed comes up to meet me gently,
So that I can finally rest.
But instead of lying back, to sit forever,
Below the waves, calmly watching my breath rise up to the sky,
I bounce back.
Suddenly sped up.
I curl –
To a ball.
Cover my head with my hands,
And fly through the surface.
Air rushes to my mouth,
My flicker and blink,
The cold hits me,
I am wet.
My matted mane
clings shapeless to my brow.
I push it away,
Yank on my leash
To collect my board.
And strike out again for the open water.
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