The writer Alex Woodcock has long been fascinated with the overlooked surrealist artist, Edith Rimmington, with whom he shared a home town, Bexhill-on-Sea. Saltwater Zodiac is a poem for her.
Out where the water is blinding
I am a portrait in barnacles,
A traveller in open country,
A woman with a camera.
The past is held in the sand
And each day the tides move it around.
I look for the ghosts in the rocks,
– A torso, a tumbler, a face I once loved –
And take their picture,
For nothing is lost in this world
And no connection too meaningless
For the eye of the sea.
I was once a painter. I painted the unpaintable.
My images were always on the cusp
Of something else.
I chased them until I could no longer,
I held them in titles:
Sisters of Anarchy, The Oneiroscopist.
The stones, now, though, are my archive
For they too dream of the abyss
And on Bexhill Beach where the veil
Of each day is ice cream and shingle
I am still making work
Though it is late and I am not who I was.
I hear the murmurs
Rolling off the undercurrent’s tongue
(The water is always up to something),
And I think I’ve nearly
Forgotten the attention-seekers
With their bright colours and talk
Of the occult
Or the inner spaces
For the secret is right here
And it is this:
Under every wave
There is the stirring of another.
This is a companion poem to Alex’s essay about the life of Edith Rimmington, Interpreter of the Dream, also published on The Clearing. Saltwater Zodiac was highly commended in Hastings’ Literary Festival competition in 2019.
Alex Woodcock is a writer and stonemason from the south coast of England. After completing a doctorate on medieval sculpture he worked at Exeter Cathedral, where he helped repair the internationally significant west front. He has published work on Romanesque and Gothic stone sculpture, surrealist artists and the landscapes and geology of the south and south-west coasts of England. He is an award-winning poet and essayist, and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He is the author of King of Dust, in which he charts his journey from academic to stonemason through a series of journeys through southern England, in search of the Romanesque (buy it here, or from your local bookshop). Follow Alex on twitter.