top of page

Three Poems by James Merchant

All photography by James Merchant

Crossed At Shore

Still, the sound of the sea

Breaking against the strand,

Strangling the stray sand

Is wholly comforting to me.

The way it wraps around

The rocks and seraph's gowns

Is all that I need.

But there is a strange taste

To the salt today,

Marred by my mind.

The bitter tang and crisp delight

Has faltered a little too unkind.

A flash of red runs over my eyes

And the fault of mine pours over.

And there, sailing away, breaking the night

With a coarse orange lamp,

A swain leaves with a ship of stone

The colour of newly opened bone

And takes swiftly now to the sea.

He fractures the horizon with his wrenching vessel

And pulls up his anchor, plunges much farther,

Leaving me bleeding ashore at his hand.

Still, there is love, there is hope,

That someday in that little boat

He may return and not flee.

But still there's this pitchfork

Blighted red beside me,

And I'm stuck in a sandy crimson mire.

They'll patch me up while you're gone.

They'll keep me whole while you float away.


The halo of sunlight

Veils my clouded brow

When it first arrives

At my window

Come afternoon.

Little whispers of

Sea-salted wounds,

And cuts cured

By deepest sympathies…

Traces everywhere;

My bones, my skin,

My eyes, my mind.

Every vision is burnt

With horseshoes,

And my luck is fraught

From the drought

Your departure wrought.

Even my stars won't smile.

Even my moon won't sing.

A silver impression

In my sheets –

The faint smell of shea butter –

A small bee perched

Against my dying roses –

I didn't think you'd haunt me.

At least not like this.

Roof Tiles

Mark a silver impression –

Frosted onto the window –

Making out a halo

Where there ought to be a moon.

It fits tonight a little too well –

A rainy feature silhouetted my room;

The candle has long since burned.

There are no angels tonight,

Only empty words and wingless moods

Moored at the white dockside of my sill.

My eyes lighthousing over the strand

Of my quilt, I tell myself I am good

Despite the outside influence,

And the unattainable goal of the moon.

You lie a little closer than I remember

When I went to sleep,

Your head nestled into a velour pillow –

I am good; you tell me so without words.


About the poems

I was raised in Welsh-medium education in Monmouthshire by my sheep farming parents with my younger brother and a constant flock of Texel-Cross ewes. I started writing at a young age, but only really honed my craft when I was diagnosed with M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) at 15.

The poems here, all composed over about a month just after last Christmas, echo a feeling of losing a sense of identity and personhood when confronted with mass change, how events come and go like the tide or the clouds, and the people who stay leave definite impressions in the sand. The poems follow a similar arc of re-engaging with myself to try and come to terms with a new self after a sequence of fraught moments, and how hopeless I felt. When looking back and editing these for publication, I found them to be more hopeful than I remember, how even in the darkness of that time, there were glimmers of light for me. I hope you enjoy these pieces.

You can find more of James's writing on his Instagram: @jamesmerchant.writer


Edited by Lara Mae Simpson, Literature Editor, and Natalie Cheung, Essays Editor


bottom of page