Only the Tide

I spent a few days in Llandudno recently, a trip I’d booked as soon as I returned from my last visit to Wales to stay with Louise and Phil in their beautiful country cottage. I’m finding lately that going away is preferable to coming home, a big change for sure – I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with “getting out there” than staying in my comfort zone of routine and habit, which is entirely as it should be.

I’d never been to Llandudno before, but fell in love with the place as soon as I got there, perhaps it was the sea air switching on and sparking dormant synapses – it was also a moment when I realised that something had been missing from my life for many years, viz the constant, gentle sussurations of the sea. I lived in Swansea for three years as a student, and the ocean was a constant companion; getting to stay out on the coast for a few days brought back a lot of memories, of nights spent on the beach reading poems, getting drunk and smoking, and always the waves, the ceaseless barrage of the waves against the shore.

So here I was again, a different place – but sometimes places are made up of things we carry within ourselves. In any case, I had a great time, climbed the Little Orme, went up Great Orme on the Victorian Tramway, walked for miles, and also visited Conwy, where I managed to get out on a boat and out onto my beloved ocean, as well as venturing into the maginificent medieval castle.

You would expect that I had many things to inspire me, and indeed I started a number of poems which will bear fruit, but one poem demanded to be written, and came from an unexpected source. Walking along Llandudno promenade, I came across a stone set on the paving just by the beach, with a sprig of flowers held in place by a pile of pebbles. The stone was a memorial to five friends who had died in a speedboat accident off the coast, on the 25th August 1992 – almost to the day, which was why I assume there were fresh flowers there. The names and the ages of the dead – all in their late teens and early twenties, struck a deep chord of pathos within me, as did the fact two of them had been engaged to be married. I did not know the circumstances of the accident, but the memorial stone and its words struck me very deeply, the tragedy of young lives cut short – and so I will let my poem speak for them and my feelings.

Only The Tide

Only the tide is certain to return to shore
Memorial stone on Llandudno promenade

A stone commemorates close
To where exhilaration killed them,
Fresh flowers here tonight
As I walk with their voices
Carrying on wind and wave.

Imagination paints faces under
Cold depth and air escaping
Giving way to water as eyes turn
To pebble, hair to seaweed before
Their flotsam bodies lay to rest.

My tears mingle with spindrift
And the countless weepings here
In dark with a mother’s grief
Or a father’s rage and the waves’
Eternal echo of unfinished lives.

What joy as they sped before their dark,
Sun in their hair, laughter-kissed hearts,
Becoming the velocity they sought,
Quick and alive until that second
When the end sent broken bodies to shore.

Fresh flowers, a stone to anchor memory,
Allowing pain its tides, but nothing can ever
Undo their joy or scrub their quick spirits
From time; in the thankful dark I pay my respects
To five beautiful dead who did not fear to live.

8 thoughts on “Only the Tide

  1. I really enjoy this poem as many times as i read it. Despite the subject it retains a lightness reflecting the ultimate sentiment, of a tribute to those who live life to the full. The image of flowers at the beginning and end help this. It touches on several elements, without being cluttered or unfocused, and the mix of grief and joy sees the 2 elements as complementary, rather than entwined. The littoral refs give the continued sway of the ocean and life without being contrived. The poignancy of the poet not knowing the people gives an added sense of the desolateness of the sea somehow – I’m sure if i stoppped to analyse that i could do, but dont feel the need. As an aside, the reference to pebbles as eyes reminds me of a Plath poem (Love Poem i think). Thank you for publishing this.

  2. Thanks Louise. This was a hard poem to write, as it was based on a very intense emotion at the time for me, one of those things that simply grabs me from time to time. Of course with such writings there can be a tendency to lean towards the sentimental, to wallow in the pathos of an event without seeking some form of positive. I felt I had managed to find a balance between acknowledging tragedy and introducing a note of celebration, of subtle joy in the thought of lives, although short, lived to the full.

  3. I loved this poem, especially the imagery which is full of unexpected poetry with a kind of timeless sense. I especially liked the lines:
    As I walk with their voices
    Carrying on wind and wave.
    I loved the originality of these lines how they melt with the landscape, really strong and vaunting.
    The third stanza is my favourite with a sense of the mother weeping at the loss, that the people who lost their lives were part of families and a community especially the lines:
    And the countless weepings here
    In dark with a mother’s grief
    Or a father’s rage and the waves’

    The internal rhyme rage and waves strengthens this stanza. I liked the vision in these lines and how the stanza melted together full of poetry.
    In the forth stanza we get a sense of the intensity of life and their simple pleasure and their enthusiasm for life make even more of a contrast with the last line:
    When the end sent broken bodies to shore.
    This brings the reality, the loss more poignant as we see them enjoying the day and then the sudden emptiness, that sense of loss that is a theme through out the poem.
    I thought the last stanza finished the poem well with a positive message and sense that they lived their lives to the full, that life is lost but not forgotten.
    I thought this poem was outstanding with an over all sense of loss but some very beautiful imagery, especially of the sea. You have created a haunting poem with a sense of depth and sensitivity and respect. A very fine poem to read.

  4. I came across this poem and just wanted to express that, although the memorial rock is intended to make other boat users take more care and be aware that the sea is such a powerfull force that should never be taken for granted, i am glad that it inspired such a heartfelt piece of writing, it conjoured up many emotions in me of that fatefull night, you have captured them and written them so beautifully that i had too smile through my tears and remembered my brother, for the fun loving, thrill seeking and un-fearfull lad he was. It is truly wonderfull to know that people do take notice and he, along with his friends will truly never be forgotten, for that I thank you.

  5. Natalie,

    That is the response I would have hoped for… I was in two minds whether to put it on my site, as I was aware that people close to the events might stumble across it – and it’s often very difficult to write about events in other people’s lives without a sense of intruding, of writing about things that should not be the business of a complete stranger. I am glad that you understood it in the spirit in which it was intended.

    Take care

    Rob

  6. thank you for your beautiful poem. they were my best friends. has brought a tear to my eyes. if you only knew how beatiful those people are,
    ian roberts(ernie)

  7. This is just a beautiful one, the stanza “My tears mingle with spindrift……….” is just awesome i will share this poem with my friends

  8. I discovered the memorial stone on Wednesday 4th January 2017 in Llandudno….. I am not connected in any way to the families involved but my heart went out to them. This was my first visit to Llandudno in many years, since a child and it was one of the first things I saw. There was a beautiful wreath from Natalie for Alex and I wondered who she was, but came to the conclusion that she must be his sister…….only now that I am home and researching the poem , have I found this page and realised that I was right. My Moms maiden name was Yates, and I just felt very touched by the memorial and Natalies tribute xxxxx So sad but beautiful

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