Folkestone Embarkations by John Wedgwood-Clarke

the drop shrilling through their spines, forbidden floors of fear struck into the body’s light, bubble-garlanded, its dark

weight spasming up through milky ways. It’s sex on a loop with nothing and the sea. They jerk up iron rungs, hug themselves

into shape on the locked stones, a queue of wild angels waiting to hurl themselves into the world from the outer walls of their lives.

2 The Folkestone Bell

Forty feet up, naked without its tower, a church bell hangs on steel cable between girders framing a way to the sea and France.

The silences of the Slope Road and Harbour Arm gather in its flying weight. On the crumbling plain of asphalt

where the funfair stood, pebbles that missed their mark lie scattered with glass and rubble. Below the bell, a loose cairn

gathers the moments when better throwers pinged its bronze bulls-eye, and each stone fell like a man struck by a bullet.

3 The Colour of Water

after Spencer Finch

Turn the colour wheel in search of names for the Channel’s mercurial silks, its transitive origins and mingling crowds

over which vague ferries, like bits of land detached, communicate differences, churning through light that haunts

names for the channel’s colours as the moon haunts the swimmer’s body suspended somewhere in the pause of high tide.

4 Bait Ball

The hidden balance tilts on the fulcrum of a bird shadow. And where they swam, which was

not anywhere, is a three-foot rainstorm, wheeling crescentic volleys of whitebait

like seeds leaping back to a sower’s hand, mackerel shadows herding the centre-less terror.

5 St Christopher

There are consequences now you fucking cunt, the young woman shouts as she raises the bottle to her lips, a sunken boat in the harbour, her voice entering with the waves

along the shingle, the pebbles like a wet necklace dandled on a plate, silver links over teeth, a St Christopher on the tongue in waves of desire, in waves of no consequence.

There are consequences now you fucking cunt. There are tiny bones forming, there is listening growing, the ossicles, tympanum, the labyrinth curving within

the incessant beat of the heart and the waves skipping flints up the beach, the labyrinth where we’ll always be lost and found between cries of consequence and the waves.

6 Sandgate Stroll

These are my other voices. Clusters of bubbles form as the wavelets withdraw from shingle. I haven’t been here for thirty years, thought I’d take a look. Tamarisk trees over the roofs of pastel-coloured beach huts, ships like grey fortresses, the Martello behind bars with its kitsch Venus and toy cannons, its cross of St George. Over in the past and still there, the grey boxes of Dungeness where they made landfall, where there’s a garden we hold on to, a wooden hut among shingle ridges, pilgrimage and tourism crowding it solitariness, where we were lost, the train not running, the walk endless, men fishing for cod in the cold North Easterly wind, in the steaming uprush from the power station’s outfall. I said to her, I said, it’s coming down the line. The beautiful line, a shoreline rolled over in light, the drowned, a man in tweeds, an electric bike. I don’t know how to get back. It is important and final down here in the aching mellowness of late-season sun, the pines and the waves’ hush-hush, crows and the hush-hush and wooden mausoleum declaring classicism to tankers as we totter among sea cabbages, beneath shining sea-cabbage clouds departing for France. I don’t know how to get back.