crabs are not comical 

but seem to live 

most miserably

relying as they must

on an intertidal roster

to construct their lives

condemned like Sisyphus

to push small balls of sand

out of their burrows

to roll back 

and dissolve

in the holes

they crouch beside



on the watch

for other crabs 

wanting to steal shelter

without the bother

of excavation

although the effort

of constant battling 

makes for sad scuttling 

creatures shifting 

about the sand

eyeing incoming tides

and neighbours

knowing these 

will bring no ease


She said: Get me out of here,

I can’t fit inside my own home,

let’s go to the middle of the ocean.

Out there, surrounded by the deep 

blue, the seabed shallows up 

into a circle of turquoise.

We can walk around the edge

of the depths, lie on our backs

soak in the colours.

My aunt lit a cigarette and haggled 

with the boatman who put-putted 

us past curious turtles and confetti

beneath the ripples. We were alone,

three people mid-ocean, seabirds, fish.

The boat idled and I slid into liquid sky,

floated to the edge and swam beyond it.

Still in the boat, my aunt lit a cigarette.

Did you know your grandmother shot a man?  

She was threatened by a mob. It was hushed up. 

Casually she flicked her ash over

the bombshell and I climbed back into the boat.

When we left, the boatman gave me a conch.

It sits in my garden still, 

the delicate pink interior dulled 

by the calc of London rain.


into the third prick of naked flame 

comes the rush of mint and sesame

heard as a long sigh


fire is invisible within its smoke   

naked it crackles and curls 

prongs of flame provoke 

a holey metamorphosis

three perforated statues fixed  

in a zig-zag of light inside the inferno

filing iron sparks into three columns

of smoke      silence      murk

nakedness guarantees the vulnerability

that accompanies nakedness inside and out

no guarantee of the outcome when flame dies

and smok


I find a stone of you

the shape of your skull

the line of your jaw

sardonic lift of brow

I turn you over

you look more pissed off

that’s not unusual

I am not uneasy

but your eyes remain closed

there is an unusual lustre to you

a new network of cracks and creases

I find something else

this distance from home

I become happy


you come at me slowly as clockwork

rotating your blades

sharpening the dullness to a point

where the green flash of sunset

exits the scarlet sea

perception shifts

horns wail from the jazz clubs

and the chant of compline prayers

trickles from chapel doors

to settle like stars or dandruff

on our salt-washed hair

weightless dust that covers us

this distance from home

I become happy

Gillie Robic was born in India and lives in London. Her first collection, Swimming Through Marble, was shortlisted and published in 2016 by Live Canon, who in October 2019, published her second collection, Lightfalls.


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