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Helen Davison

Low Tide

(Seaweed, salt water and rust on paper)

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Low tide

Sand stretched taut

Polished and buffed to a mirrored sheen

Reflecting the end of the light

The breeze tousles the film of water

Strums its aura

Ripples radiate out in all directions

They break upon the waves

And rest to cradle the sky

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Hovering on one leg

I pull off a boot and release a foot from its sock

Gingerly I place it down flinching slightly at the cold

snug little parcels of nervous sweat are bundled back inside

I move with tentative steps afraid to fracture the delicate surface

But it gives and gently resettles itself

Flexing to warp around my weight

I wait for its breath to deepen to a slow and rhythmic lulling


Water lingers in the arches

Clings to moss and seaweed

Waxed green so vivid it appears unnatural

Echoes of drips





into puddles

brim and tip and spill

impatient to rejoin the sea

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I stand between two arches

Holding onto a breath

My bare feet turn

through pink

to sallow

I tug at the doughy skin

it stretches out

and remains misshapen

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With pinking shears I cut through the top and lift the heavy bag of grit salt

I sprinkle it across the concrete in front of me

Brownish red of raw carnelian

grey black

translucent granules tickle the ground

tiny sounds patter

As I move slowly from side to side

Grains of grit catch between teeth. Grind between molars. 


I stand holding your gaze

and pour the remainder of the bag

Over my feet

Over my head

Clumps of grit and salt catch in my hair

They suck out the moisture from my skin


Rusty streaks





I twitch my eyes against the sting

Inhale the metallic smell in my nostrils

My tongue searches involuntarily

Curious and revolted

The weight brings comfort

Heat drives the blood

It pumps and pulses like the sea

That sucks my breath in and out

I slowly scrunch the empty bag

up in my left hand

I listen to it

The thick plastic crackles

As it strains to straighten itself and burst from my grasp

Moving against itself

against my skin

I crush it tighter into my fist

Open my mouth wide

And shove it in

I gag

on the salt saturated plastic

as it unfurls against my tonsils

Open my fingers wide

And let it fall to the ground

Displacing a layer of now mushy grit



Pushing it into little mounds

Raising miniature peaks of snow capped mountains on the plastic tablecloth

Red with white polka dots

Like an immensely oversized ladybird

The journey is navigated past splatters of gravy and rogue peas

'Stop that'

'You're making a mess'

Your finger jolts back

The gesture swiftly replaced with a shrug

'Would anyone like some more?'

'Yes please'

You wonder if this was anything other than a test?

'Haven't you had enough?'

You feel your jaw weaken

Lip tremble

As a slither is grudgingly served

The tart tang sucks in your cheeks

and thick globules of lemon curd threaten to wobble out from your weakened mouth

You can't look up from your plate

You swallow hard

Teetering between joy and disgust

wishing one of you wasn't there

You spend the rest of the day in your room

You move the bed away from the wall and sit behind it with a family of plastic trolls

Your brother comes and sits on the edge of your bed

'I really thought you were going to cry'

I whisper

'Be calm'

You probably can't hear me

Above the crackle of interference that pouts from my mouth

Over the soft edge

A hard corner of plastic bites into the pink flesh

Distorting it into a grimace

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I gently raise each foot

tipping off the mounds of salt and stand back into the empty footprints

nudging the border with a toe

I study the grit

the way it rests

the way it gathers

the way it clumps half melted in sea puddles

Watching as rusty streaks slide down the concrete

I walk slowly under the next arch

Pressing down the soft soles of my feet into the grit salt

I feel the sound resonate through my body

Shards of grit cling to my feet

digging in


The residue lingers in pock marks and dimples

warming to an itch

to a burn

that will gradually become unbearable


Two iron rods rest against the wall

Raw with oxidisation

Kinked by slow disintegration

I lift them as silently as possible

but their notes chafe off on my skin

They teeter on the fulcrum of my palm

Unable to balance the burden

I tilt until they graze the floor

Their ragged tips just shy of touching one another

I stand

legs spread





Glimpsing the horizon through the gap

Until my legs buckle


I snatch up the duvet by a corner

drag it across the concrete

Push it over onto the rocks below and hop down onto it

My cold feet smart on impact

I tow it behind me

shifting sand backwards

to go forwards

I dunk 



it in



pushing it down 

until it gasps for breath

Then let it come splashing back up to the surface

Water gurgles between the folds

But before it can catch its breath I drag it back the way I came

obliterating my trail

with new streaks and traces of entanglement

I hoist back up the bloated mass

and dump it down

in a pile of soggy exhaustion


The poles screech with protest as they rattle across the concrete

They twist and slip from my cold fingers


are caught before they land

Are spun in an arc

to face myself

I rake them across the salted earth

they catch in a crack

and judder back into my palms

pinching the flesh

I pull them round and round the space sending grit bouncing off in all directions

I rake until they shriek and spark

Then hurl



the ground

Where they shudder to stillness

Then rest

them softly


the ground

drained and inert


I twist the duvet using one of the poles to wind it

squeezing out the water

it splatters the floor

Droplets land on my feet

Tributaries carving narrow valleys through the layer of sand

I smooth it flat against the concrete

Fine grooves overwhelmed with fat smears

I lay the poles down on top of the duvet

remove my clothes and lie down beside them

I wrap the duvet around us

but all comfort has gone from it

It leeches the heat from our bodies

Until we reach a cold damp equilibrium


I lie within its dank and grimy folds and whisper to them

with a voice that sprinkles the ground

different textures

different weights

barely audible


A phrase grows repeated into meaninglessness

As I bite down

and suck

on a corner of the duvet


I let it sit in my mouth



As I stand 

it dribbles


my front

It's warm

'Should you be eating that?'


I insert the jagged points of the metal rods

up inside my gums

Forcing my mouth

into a grin

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