Michael Henry

Waymarks on the Beach

The shingle beach shelves into the sea,
a bleak Magwitch shorescape,
sickly sea kale, sea thistles
and tall bracken-like plants
with tiny toast-brown berries.

There’s a lusterware of sea-shells,
whorls of cockle and winkle shells,
the dark-tortoiseshell of mussel,
tiger cowrie and precious whelk.
To my left the white cliffs of Ramsgate,

behind me the laconic mansions
of Sandwich Bay and a changeling moon.
The Land I’m facing must be France
where young men have surrendered their dreams
but my view is tarnished with haze.

Someone has made a ring-around-the-roses
of shells, that has been trampled on,
passing on a coded message
like the secret sign language of travellers.
I pick up a broken conch, put it to my ear.

It holds the mantra of a migrant.

Born in Liverpool in 1942, Michael Henry read Modern Languages at Oxford. Soon after graduating he emigrated to Canada, where he worked as a teacher for thirteen years. He had his first poems published in Canadian magazines and also broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Since his return to England he has lived in his home-town, Cheltenham.