Canute’s Wife, after Carol Ann Duffy

by Emily Mercer

It was a hot day, too hot for June.

I took him to the beach with a picnic; red wine

and strawberries, like when we were young.


He was wearing his suit (never had

much of a memory; he got up for work on Sunday).

With rolled up cuffs like a little boy he sat in the sand

and spoiled his trousers,

sucked the juice of a strawberry and gave me

little red kisses.

He’d forgotten


it was our anniversary, too,

of course. But I didn’t mind.

We drank a lot of that wine, a viscous red. It was nice,



He chased me on the sand dunes in the heat

and I cut my foot on the grass spears.

By evening, our empty glasses

looked like bloodied light,

empty bottles full of a sticky green glimmer.

My head was full of it too. Full of an anniversary

that felt like a honeymoon.


I sat with a red serviette on my foot and watched him

run into the sunset.

He called something back to me; no,

not to me, to the sea.

I laughed and couldn’t hear.

He ran out into the foam, shouting still,

shouting louder


but he gave up and took me back to the car.

Lying on the seat, my foot throbbed, my nose was peeling.

I felt invincible, I slept while he fetched

the remains of our evening.


How many hours in that blissful sleep

how many moments of lost confusion

and where was he, by the time I reached the shore?


The sea was beautiful and incessant

chewing up the sand at my feet

as I called his name.

Those dunes were silent

and the water a smug Red Sea –

parted for him, betrayed and closed over him,

while my eyes bled tears to join the salt that stole him.