Image by Caroline Forbes

The Seashells of Bridlington North Beach

Jack Mapanje


The Seashells of Bridlington North Beach

Jack Mapanje


Poem introduction

My family and I visited the seaside in the North of England, in Bridlington, and this comes out of that visit.

The Seashells of Bridlington North Beach

The Seashells Of Bridlington North Beach
(for Mercy Angela)

She hated anything caged, fish particularly,
Fish caged in glass boxes, ponds, whatever;

'Reminds me of prisons and slavery,' she said;
So, when first she caught the vast green view

Of Bridlington North Beach shimmering that
English summer day, she greeted the sight like

A Sahara girl on parched feet, cupping, cupping,
Cupping the water madly, laundering her palms,

Giggling and laughing. Then rubbing the hands
On her skin, she threw her bottom on the sandy

Beach and let the sea breathe in and out on her
As she relaxed her crossed legs - 'Free at last!'

She announced to the beach crowds oblivious;
And as the seascape rallied and vanished at her

Feet, she mapped her world, 'The Netherlands
We visited must be here: Norway, Sweden there;

Beyond that Russia!' Then gathering more sea-
shells and selecting them one by one, she turned

To him, 'Do you remember eating porridge from
Beach shells once?' He nodded, smiling at another

Memory of the African lakes they were forced to
Abandon, 'Someday, perhaps I'll take that home

To celebrate!' She said staring into the deep sea.
Today her egg-like pebbles, her pearls of seashells

Still sparkle at the windowsill; her wishes still ring,
'Change regularly the water in the receptacles to

Keep the pebbles and seashells shining - you'll
See, it's a lot healthier than feeding caged fish!'


from The Last of the Sweet Bananas: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books in association with The Wordsworth Trust 2004) copyright © Jack Mapanje 2004, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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