Ann Mason

Sea Pictures

All round the coast
they came at night with rakes,
worked the washed sand into human faces
as the water retreated, as the day broke.
Their efforts, their respect, evoke
soldiers a century ago
searching in foreign mud for a brother’s trace.

Portrait, landscape, the terms merge today
with the certainty of tides.
Artists inspired by the rhythm of the sea
and play of light on countless grains of quartz
create an outdoor portrait exhibition.
Features stilled for ever, named now by few,
take shape on the khaki-coloured canvas
of a beach. Stick-like figures move about,
seeming less alive than the images at their feet
who cast no shadow in this quiet commemoration.

After the trails of poppy blood,
the sombre repetition of solemn words,
this fresh spareness speaks to hearts.

The sea returns. The watchers close in,
surround the heads as the inevitable waves
gain ground, prevail, erase.