A poem inspired by Barbara Hepworth, written after seeing a wrecked boat on the Camel Estuary in Cornwall.


after Barbara Hepworth

Keeled over, with half the rib-cage gone,
bones smoothed by water and wind:
is it a whale’s carcass, stripped bare
by the gulls, or a boat’s hull – stranded,
skeletal, visible only when the tide is low
and the estuary empties, leaving
alternating stripes of water and wet sand?

Perhaps neither of these things, exactly,
but a grammar of loss – a way of grasping
the shape and structure of desolation.
Examine it more closely, from all angles.
Is it a harp, or a cello? Listen. There are strings
on the struts for the wind to play its tunes on.
Feel the hewn, polished contours with your hand.

Barbara Hepworth, Landscape Sculpture