Whitby Harbour

by | April 23, 2020

You can’t quite put a finger on it –
                whetted, held up to feel the wind.

Maybe it’s something on the –
                lift your head to chase it
– sea spray, that skates across the mudflats and weaves
between the salt-rotten wood-stump groynes.

The abbey –
                count the steps:   up,                up,                   up,
                                                down,            down
– looms over the town.
                Clouds brood between its ossified remains; a fissured
                                                            shale sky.


                one hundred and ninety-nine
                        ship timbers creak as the wind catches stories
through the rain-soaked stone.

The harbour breathes
                                        up,                      up,                     up,
                                                down,               down,

                                – chase it through the steep and narrow streets –

and the waves carry voices out to sea.

                                Ships draw brushstrokes through the harbour walls.

Maybe it’s something –
                chase it through the slate-dark bay
– between the buoys that mark the cobbled roads,
                                        or spliced between the rigging, or a ripple through the

The red-roofed, white-washed houses line the hills
                                as ammonites curl deeper into sandstone.

Feel the whetted wind.
                                        And you still
                                                                    can’t quite put
                                                                    a finger on it.∎

Words by Jemima Swain. Art by Eloïse Fabre.