Anne Rouse

The Town

You arrive at a ruined barn,
pocked and flecked with lichen;
dried stalks of hemlock levelling like spears.
This is the town when it first eyes you.

A couple of pre-war shops, wares assorted.
Frantic in the sea breeze, a banner for a fete;
trays of novelettes whitening with rain.
The town that will turn a penny, if it must.

Then there’s the town that pleases itself
between yellow cliffs, stucco and ragstone.
Whether passing through or asleep in a doorway,
on trickling afternoons you vanish, quite.

But this town fades too, in its salt mist,
part of an endlessness that comes and goes,
glimpsed through the aspens:
a silvered blue, half-indistinct from sky.

Anne Rouse lives in East Sussex. Her collection, Ox-Eye, will be out with Bloodaxe Books in the spring of 2022. She can be found on Twitter at @rouseanne.