We round the Brunel coast, in a train
crowded with bags and elbows. Tunnels gape
through mountains. Someone coughs. Now at sea:
the dank sand rises from the surf, the strain
of mergence evident in straggled tapes
of kelp. The plate-glass windows frame these
quick pictures: someone heaves a fishing line
above the red sea wall; another breaks
the lace of foam to hunt for early shells.
We swing from shore to estuary: here, pines
point fingertips on rounded grass that lakes
of mist promote as islands. On one hill
a flat-faced folly, crenellated, sits;
a battled cottage, militarily-spiked.
Near the train, imbibed in a salt six-inch,
the ribcage of a ship rots darkly. Its
metal spent, the look is almost Viking –
just as that shed is a castle – at a pinch.
Rising to my stop, I catch a face
suspended in the window’s blur of breath.
I recognise the coat; it always takes
a moment more to recognise myself.
About this poem
‘Follies’ is taken from Penny Boxall’s debut, Ship of the Line (Eyewear, 2014), which won the second Edwin Morgan Poetry Award in 2016.