Seascape, 1952

after L.S. Lowry’s painting ‘Seascape’

This scene is teeming with next-to-nothing:
sky only just distinguishable from the sea,
the sea a hair’s breadth from being beach;

I have the feeling that any minute now
a single gull will appear, or a pebble
will emerge from the only-just sand;

that not too long ago, something vanished
behind these drawn curtains of water.
It’s all there. It’s all in the sea, he said.

And yes, there’s the echo of factory smoke,
the milling of nobody at all on the beach,
the worn-out colours of mill, canal and chimney.

This is aching with loneliness.
The question he asked was: what if the tide
didn’t turn? What if it came on and on?

Well yes: this is all that would be left.
An Old English word for sea was brim –
the border, the edge, the margin –

and I can see how full it is.
How all I’ve ever known is in there:
invisible, not gone.