23.9.10

INCIDENT AT CRACKINGTON HAVEN

In August 2005 we went to Cornwall on holiday and visited Crackington Haven on the day of the Boscastle floods. It never appeared on the news or in the newspapers but it will be a day we will always remember because we thought we were all going to drown. The pub mentioned in the poem is the building on the left side of the picture. Imagine everything else under water and cars and fridges heading out into the bay! It took five years to write this poem and it's been through many drafts but I felt I really needed to memorialise this day and celebrate our survival. When I hear foolish people describe themselves or others as 'Masters of The Universe', I recall that day and remember that the true Master of the Planet is the climate and the natural forces that it commands-all else is transitory.


INCIDENT AT CRACKINGTON HAVEN

Some few miles north of Boscastle,
a hamlet nestles in a crack
of cliff that rolls down to the sea.

We travelled there to try the surf,
and look around the rocky shore,
and eat some scones with clotted cream.

Some specks of rain began to fall
and angry clouds came rolling in:
The surfers dashed as lightning flashed.

We huddled in the small cafe
as raindrops became golf-ball sized,
and torrents dropped from angry skies.

The beck that chuckled like a child
now grew a matted mane, and claws,
and without pause, began to roar.

We scuttled to the white-washed pub
that perches just above the beach
while raindrops turned to tennis balls.

We ordered pub lunches and pints
and settled down to stuff ourselves
when Jack said, 'Dad! Come look at this!'

Water sluiced the car park floor
and flowed around the parked up cars.
Jack and I rushed out the door

to move our car to higher ground
with one eye on the frowning clouds
then ran back, soaking, to the pub.

Now all watched the waters grow.
Raging water from above:
Foaming water from below.

The beck spat out and the sea sucked in,
working like nefarious twins.
Then, all sound seemed to subside.

An eerie silence fell about.
A sepulchral skewer clamped
a gag in the tongue-tied clout.

Then, like a bomb the silence cracked.
A horde of banshees screaming out
our doom to split the sky in half.

The heavy rain had just been tears
from the roused and raging dragon's eyes
but now with boom, and bang, and blast,

the dark dragon herself appears-
bolts out of the beck and bends
the sky with whirling water-wings!

The hissing rain still pocks the sand
and lightning stirs the churning swirl.
The water stomps in giant's boots!

The beck's banks break apart like glass;
smashed and pounded and then ground
beneath the raging of it's flow.

The hustling trickle's now a torrent
and we feel we might be doomed.
Just then, all the children start to scream.

Men holler like loons to order.
The women's eyes are filled with tears.
Two lifeguards fret and scream for calm.

Platoons of men are window-pressed
and watch a fridge go floating by.
A tree, turning in the tide

waves feathery leaves as if
to say 'goodbye, farewell-I'm gone'
followed by strings of spinning cars.

Beside them sits an ancient pair
quietly eating pie and chips,
frowning at the fearful din.

I ask the barman-'Shall we move
upstairs and wait until the flood subsides?'
He says: 'The rooms are occupied!'

Flowing round the old white pub
go the brown sinewy arms,
like fingers rouns a pure white throat.

Any moment now I think
this pub will float right out to sea.
This monument to drink will sink

with all her screaming fearful crew.
The choice seems clear; stay here and drown
or take the road to higher ground.

Let's go! We wade out to the car
and soaking wet, we all pile in.
Thank God the engine starts first time.

The pedal-pressed leg shakes
but we judder up the hill
and leave the others to their fate.

Then...Damn it! Damn! Damn! Damn!
My moleskine notebook's in the pub
full of poems not yet grown.

Ben jumps out and rushes back
and while he's gone the seconds drag:
A son is poor exchange for some

mere book but in a flash he's back
and up the hill we steeply strain,
water washing to the rims.

The honda coughs and groans against
the push of that great flowing tongue
that so nearly licked us out.

We crest the ridge like freedom's song
Yes! We're saved! We'll live! We'll live!
Then sorrow for our shipmates down below.

We park besides malevolent floods
and rush into another handy pub.
The feverish light of the nearly-dead

dangles guttering lanterns in
our wild and widening eyes
as we wail our salty tale

to startled diners and a clutch
of locals brooding by the bar.
A sullen landlord scowls for free.

'There's talk of bodies at Boscastle!'
A news-hack from the local rag
picks about the place for scraps:

Like some strutting raven on
a field of silent slain-
Against a white backdrop-a stain!

'Crackington-where? No! No!
It's Boscastle that's in the news.
Not What-haven! Where?'

Just a place we thought we'd met
our end, that's all. That's it, no more.
A hamlet nestling in a crack of cliff.

We visited to try the surf
and look around the rocky shore,
and eat some scones with clotted cream.






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