Emily Wills


It’s not how you remember it – scabbed with lichen,
door stuck, boat gone, only lobster pots to mark
where the old man sat finnicking his nets,

fishstink last-gasping in the bucket
you couldn’t look at, and gulls scooping
for innards and eyes. The cliff path paused for breath

between that still-living catch and afterwards, that much
is certain. Now the shack retreats into its pelt
of marram and thrift, the tamarisks fray in the wind.

But the lobster pots and nets endure, roped in your mind,
with their orange buoys and easy bait,
so it’s impossible to reverse

for even this much remembering has claws,
an awkward tail. The fisherman just goes on being there
with his lapful of holes, his pincer hands mending nothing

but spaces for water to swim through. It’s a question
of what escapes, what’s trapped for recollection
in this seablue light with its glint and penknife,

its double barb. And probably there are others with you –
forgotten ones, ghosts – for you’re not alone in this catch
of random memory, where what remains is cut

to a square of net, a lobster’s rearview porthole,
scraps, scales, shells. For the fisherman’s knots will hold
and you’ll walk on, you and the others, past boatwreck

and lichened rock, as the path curves inland, and looking back
the view will be roped off by tamarisks to a whiff of salt,
a single gull scanning the place for bones.

Return to Adjudicators Report