Boats by the Shore

A poem in response to Cotman's 'Boats by the Shore'

Boats by the Shore

Boats by the Shore

Take in the clean shapes first, simplifed
into planes and subtle diagonals.
Know their balance – a composition
in which all forms are connected.

The darkest band of pigment is an arch
that presses down on driven cloud,
through which a silver light breaks
and whelms – its dazzle wide, un-scripted.

An upright boat leans in the shallows,
its long mast tilted. The angle of cliff-line,
distant sail and planks, the edges of stone
run in parallel, calmly adjusted.

The beach is a cavern that funnels light
across the puddled orange sand.
Under that great vault of stormy sky
the sea’s rhythm is heard, or suggested.

Wooden hulls are darkest brown, some up-ended.
You can touch their smoothness. One
leans towards you like an empty shell.
It whispers of salt. The shape is haunted.

The painter’s mood inheres in the curves
of these waiting keels like homesickness.
Or a poem so long contemplated
that self is forgotten, abstracted.