Stephen Robertson

Slanting Lines

Creek mud

As I drift on mirror water, following the bend,

the curlew rises suddenly,

screeching at my invasion of its space.

Two plovers wait a little longer,

then follow suit; the oystercatcher

busily foraging across the bank

lets me get much closer

before giving me an earful.

To my left, the foraging ground: a smooth bank of mud

slopes up from the creek.  On the other bank

a mud cliff, undercut and crumbling in places,

crested by the fuzz of last year’s growth,

looks like a great sea-crag in miniature,

a tumbling precipice of rock—or maybe ice

from a dying glacier.

On the next bend, the banks

will exchange character.

A flowing river, meandering across

a flood plain, excavates one bank

as it lays down the other,

switching favours at each turn.

(Stay close to the carved bank

for the deeper channel.)

In the tidal creeks that snake

across the saltmarsh, the currents

are complex but have the same effect.

On a spring high tide, I would be floating

at the height of the marsh, or maybe over it.

But today we are in the neaps:

even at high tide, with the mud cliffs

above my head, the rest of the marsh

is out of sight.