The prompt for today’s #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge is ‘Surf’s Up!’ Counterintuitively what flashed into my mind was an image of beachcombing one January back in 2011. That became the basis for today’s Poetry Daily.

The beach is my happy place. I’m not sure how I have managed to remain so inland or landlocked all my life when my heart and soul yearns for the ocean. Recently in Bundoran one steamy day I saw a toddler racing towards the water’s edge. I was getting ready to run interference when dad did a rugby save, scooping her up just before she touched down toes in the sea. But it reminded me of an anecdote my mother told me about my infant experience of the seaside. I, too, ran straight for it. I was likely 18 months old at the time. She regretted not teaching me to swim then, because I never really got the hang of it when I finally had lessons at the local pool. The Y pool also gave me one awful ear and sinus infection. I never took the final test for the certificate. And I am still loathe to put my face into pool water. But I don’t mind being smacked by an ocean wave. I can still fondly remember my brother Steve instructing me in how to ride the waves when I was probably about four.

We went to the beach every summer of my childhood because my mother’s beloved sister lived half a block from the Atlantic Ocean. It had also been where my mother lived out her teen years before she trained as a lab technician in Philadelphia and began a career that took her to West Virginia, North Carolina, the US Coastguard and then the Bronx, before she married and had a family.

Which segues into the Poetry Daily poem for this Monday. It’s not about Sligo-side surfers, but my favourite beach pastime – beachcombing.

Beachcombing for Gravegoods

My sister and I paced the Atlantic's fringe
in January's arctic wind. Show had frozen
on the boardwalk. We paces with eyes on the ground
for seashells strewn on F. Street Beach.

Just as in summers after supper was done
my mother and I walk the beach in setting sun.
One year my brother, some yards behind,
laughingly pointed out our footprints in the sand,
mother's and daughter's gait being the same
rhythm and kind.

Not that that would be true untill the end of her time.
No. But each summer we foraged
for ocean's treasures to take hom.
We made a display in an old cookie tray -
sand saved, some razor clams and scallops,
mussles, sand frosted shards of glass,
bits of old cord and driftwood.

One year my sister scored a giant conch.
I have it still. When I am six feet underground
it will accompany me.
Just as I made a posy of F Street seashells
to sail with my mother when she set out
into the fathomless sea.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

F Street Beach
F Street Beach c. 1960

One thought on “Beachcombing

  1. Love this poem it makes me homesick, beachcoming was a favourite pass time– collecting shells, and smooth freckled stones– admiring bleached driftwood — so much natural beauty.

    Liked by 1 person

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