I Dream of Canute (& the Sea is Rising)



A 100-year poem that disintegrates over time at a rate linked to global mean sea level rise. The poem began in 2016.

All of this will disappear
but forgive me, if I may only keep

all tomorrow’s dancing days
& my little sister’s laugh.

My remembers fit neatly into them
(into you, dear sea, your salt)

because, without love, nothing
save this fistful of flowers.

No mam calling me in, no mam
to make the sun sit on the dunes.

For the first time I am leaving
so I offer you this nest of words

& fold you under its feathers
like the secrets from my brother’s head

(the ones that stay the longest).
I want to sleep on your pebbled shore

because there are the grace notes of the trees
& places to hide where no-one sees

among roots grasping to the last.
All my love is silk & salt.

The seeing & the missing you.
You, who never leaves their bed

(your tide & its breathing ways).
There is no-one on earth but us

& we’re blinking just to break awake.
Life was better while we played.

This earth is not what it was
& all of this will disappear.

The rope you spat is from a sunken city
(the one you took & then returned

twice daily to the shifting sure).
Don’t go, there’s something else to say.

Meet me where I needn’t think
about it all as drowning.

There was no-one on board but us.
Sea, let’s play this one for keeps.

Sea, I will tell you a story
about when we hid behind the moon

& blinked to break awake
between tomorrow & tomorrow

I borrowed a home from you, there
like a lantern, like the past.

The trees make red rain
their limbs letting fall in time

& I piled them onto you to burn
or I started & you washed them out.

Your brain is beating my brain.
My heart is swelling your heart.

I smell coffee, copper & hay.
I smell the slipping of the day

in this borrowed muck you’ll take away
when all of this will disappear.

What can I keep & never lose?
I’ll keep my dog’s own rose

I’ll keep your cold brine
as you dampen the sun & wash the stars

& in turn about, hug someone close.
Your foam is a saline blanket

over mam, friends, the earth.
I want to walk over winter’s bones

to test out how I meet the gone.
Whenever I listen you do not speak.

Whenever I listen you flow away.
When I do not listen you scrape, you spray

& make the weather as it was.
Why should I share it with you?

You have taken some of all I have
& only remembers remain.

I remember a child in rubble
(but that never happens here).

I remember children on a boat
(a tide of faces turned back).

I want to stay inside a book.
I want to bottle you saltless

& drink you like mam kisses me
but all of this will disappear.

The things I’ll keep are clean
(Misty stretching when dad comes home)

(the story Masie left for me)
(the shushing of your swelling rise).

Why do you make this brackish me?
Why do you want these words?

I am becoming, becoming nothing
but a nurdle in a plastic you

I can’t build a house on salt
while flowers growl at their extinction.

Your centimetres are sentences
that I’ll never speak again

Dad will you forget me?
Sea, I do not need to win.

but it is best when all are here
& talking of the talking things.