Lincolnshire’s Poet Laureate writes Theddlethorpe verse

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LINCOLNSHIRE’S very own Poet Laureate, Joel Stickley, has selected Theddlethorpe as the subject of his latest poem.

The post has been created as part of the Igniting Ambition programme, which will showcase arts, heritage and media projects across Lincolnshire this summer in the build up to the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

Derbyshire born Joel, 28, told The Leader: “What interested me about the beach at Theddlethorpe was the strange combination of wildlife reserve and military testing site.”

He added: “That combination – that weird juxtaposition of nature and war – has so much Englishness tied up in it, so much pride and fear and ambivalence, that I thought it would make an interesting subject.”

•Think you can do better than Joel? Email your poems to sam.kinnaird@jpress.co.uk and the best entries will be published in The Leader.

Theddlethorpe

At Theddlethorpe, the sea goes out for miles

and England falls away beneath your feet

while concrete bunkers hidden on the dunes

wait silently for rabbits to retreat.

Amongst the drift of wood and broken shells,

the path along the seaweed tide is lined

with white-on-red official signs that warn

that there’ll be no reward for things you find.

He searches anyway, his school shoes wet,

imagination full of guns and gold.

He scuffs his feet through suspect spots of sand;

somewhere, back home, his dinner’s getting cold.

He wants a souvenir of something real;

he wants to hold a thing that heroes held –

a hand grenade, an unexploded bomb.

He wants his heart to swell as theirs have swelled.

One scuffing school shoe thunks on something hard.

He kneels down and starts to excavate.

He feels it – metal, buried in the sand.

One hand digs deep, then pulls. He feels the weight.

It shucks off sand, emerges with a schwup;

the cavity refills with rising silt.

His breathing quick, he wipes the metal clean.

His heart swells now – excitement, fear and guilt.

He holds it up, the surface oddly slick;

it feels so heavy, alien and dead.

Then something from a video game he played:

‘War never changes,’ whispers in his head.

‘It never does,’ the lump of metal says.

He drops it, stung. It thumps into the sand.

A second passes – he is still alive.

It stares at him. He wipes dirt from his hand.

It speaks again – a hollow metal voice:

‘But you don’t know the smell of blood, my lad.

Your Xbox zombies never taught you that –

that churning in your gut you’ve never had.’

He turns and runs – the rabbits scatter out.

The puddled sands reflect the afternoon,

then rise to fill his footsteps as he goes.

The concrete bunkers stare out from the dune.

He stumbles on a sunken pile of kelp,

turns with his ankle, spins and sprints away.

Behind him sits the lump of metal, still;

he knows that there’ll be no reward today.

He feels a burning in his throat and lungs.

Imagined spitfires cover his retreat.

At Theddlethorpe, the sea goes out for miles

and England falls away beneath his feet

Joel Stickley