About the poet
Jack Mapanje (b. 1944, Malawi), currently Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University...
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
Sponsor this poem
Would you like to sponsor this poem? Find out how here.