Martin Robertson

Now and Then

For Rachel

Above the sea and the wide sand gulls fly calling

or walk far out by the ripples’ edge, where children

paddle and shout.  The waves rustle.  Yet silence

encloses all in crystal.  This is an empty

world, where bird and child exist like water

and today is yesterday and is tomorrow.

Unaware, at least, as birds of the past or morrow,

at work alone on a sand-castle, or calling

another to see some trove dredged from the water,

unaware as waves almost, the sanded children

dot like sea-birds, sea-shells, the beach, that empty

accepts their cries into its crystal silence.

You, though, reader, must watch outside the silence

with me, since after-knowledge sets tomorrow

to mirror yesterday—images which empty

the moment’s brimming being.  Not us they’re calling

but others within the crystal, child to children

as gull to gull across the sand and water.

Look, on the sand a small way from the water

a child is building, wrapped in private silence,

small crystal world within the world of children,

a castle that waves (we know) before tomorrow

will smooth back into beach-sand; as shrill calling

of child or bird leaves the next moment empty.

Look on the walls, lofty and from no empty

moat upmounting, but straight from shining water

bravely bridged—flagged battlements recalling

story and dream…  A sadness in your silence

recalls me to mounded sand.  A windy morrow

shakes the crystal bubble about the children.

Light slopes, lengthens the shadows of the children

parting, gathering, trailing across the empty

sand, in evening’s awareness of tomorrow.

Brief wind ruckles gulls’ feathers, wrinkles water,

drops, still.  Break from above into this silence

out of the outer world loud voices calling.

Authority breaks, calling, the world of children.

Gone the seagulls, silence.  The beach is empty,

and water, advancing, renews it for tomorrow.