Week 15: Sea to the West, by Norman Nicholson

Sea to the West

When the sea’s to the west
The evenings are one dazzle –
You can find no sign of water.
Sun upflows the horizon;
Waves of shine
Heave, crest, fracture,
Explode on the shore;
The wide day burns.
In the incandescent mantle of the air.

Once, fifteen,
I would lean on handlebars,
Staring into the flare,
Blinded by looking,
Letting the gutterings and sykes of light
Flood into my skull.

Then, on the stroke of bedtime,
I’d turn to the town,
Cycle past purpling dykes
To a brown drizzle
Where black-scum shadows
Stagnated between backyard walls.
I pulled the warm dark over my head
Like an eiderdown.

Yet in that final stare when I
(Five times, perhaps, fifteen)
Creak protesting away –
The sea to the west,
The land darkening –
Let my eyes at the last be blinded
Not by the dark
But by the dazzle.

Norman Nicholson

The presence of light in this poem is so physical one almost feels one should be reading it through smoked glass, the way those ‘gutterings and sykes’ (a syke is a small ditch or rill) flood into one’s own skull. Certainly it more than earns the right to that final perhaps inevitable yet still surprising touch of the metaphysical.

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