blue black mussels tight shut in bunches heap among the soft, sea-rounded, cheese-holed chalk chunks, millions and millions and millions, a bounty of them. sea-worked round grey flints gather in the pounded hollows of scoured white chalk as for a forgotten game. the sea has dropped its toys: tyres, brooms, shoes, bottles; an outcast shopping trolley lurking under the groyne struts, low tide just at the turn. once there was a railway here. sea roars with laughter at the thought; huge concrete blocks upended, barnacle and limpet crusted, bare human vanity to millions of witnesses. we step into salt world, white, grey, dark green, blue, cold wind, sea grind… here time is tide turn, earth turn. sky blue on blue above deepens to zenith, pitches seaward to turquoise, turns sulphur, gold, bronze; sea, ice blue streaked with orange, raw beauty, wild as gull scream, wave rush. down here a vision opens. suddenly you said, how could anyone destroy, if they just stopped and looked ... into the amphitheatre of late afternoon, sun re-enters from behind bronze cloud, tide’s turned, lifts slack weed back to water life, milky with storm-ground chalk, whey blue, ice cold, salt sting. sun swells, darkens; meets its reflection; for a moment each stays distinct, round on round, then real and reflected merge molten, sun melts, empties its fire on the sea, then sinks; half, a quarter, a vanishing that sucks the colour out of everything. by afterlight, we climb up over the sea wall, walk back under rough cliffs, kick fallen flints, till sparks fly, then look back, where the soft moon, gold and nearly full, looks round the cliff like a patient mother, watching her children home. night deepens, cold tightens, gulls float on the swell, preen, quarrel and scream. cormorants fly low, rock pipits call as we fall into night, swoop with dipping flight in small flocks, as if they had an urgent message as we return to the illusion of house, shop, car.