The Ruined House
after John Sell Cotman
Watch and wait as the sun moves slowly
round the shored-up walls. You’re so close
you can smell the salt-eroded beams,
feel the dry white light on painted bricks,
the crumbling mortar. How long until
the plaster flakes and the rusty nail
holding that loop of wire bends and falls?
There’s only darkness in those gutted rooms,
which stare like the sockets of blind eyes.
Only half a skeleton house remains,
like the rotting carcass of a gull,
at the wind-bitten edge of desolation
with the sea some way below.
Decay has its own tempo.
You must watch and wait a while longer
before time picks the girders clean
and lays the rafters low.