THE FROGMORE POETRY PRIZE 2010

A K S Shaw

COASTGUARD

A lonesome kite floats on the last breath of summer,
surrendering to a shivering spectrum of battle grey.
A storm’s brewing, bitter winds aggravating the soup
of a petulant sea, screeching gulls slicing the sky
into ear-splitting segments, the beach all but deserted.

Old Gertrude cares not a kipper. She just sits there,
unflappable, her deck chair anchored halfway
up a bank of pebbles, full frontal to the channel.
Conjure this axe of a woman, shoulders like a gantry,
cross between boxer and bull terrier, florid cheeks
flanking hard flat nose, wide eyes surveying all.

The hatchet of her frame is harnessed by a coat
Napoleon would have died for, a thick red scarf
wound tightly turban-style around her square head.
As her needles click and tap, the loose paunch
of a thick navy jumper slowly scrolls into her lap.

The channel’s beginning to show its pagan side,
surging forward, foaming at the mouth, grabbing
sand and shingle, shooting up arrows of spray.
It drops back, regroups, and returns, edging
ever closer, but then, within a splash of Gertrude,
it stops, throws down a battered crest, and retreats.

Albion have no fear. This could be Queen Emma
teaching her husband a lesson in power politics.

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