No fey fairy tale figure this Folkestone maid
But mature, full-bodied, strong and wise
Rooted firmly on the East Cliff rocks
Staring intently out on Channel skies.
Some try to clothe her in pity, some in fun
Hats, bikinis, scarves, have all adorned her form
But she is perfect as she is – broad, naked, deep
Impervious to pounding waves and winter storm.
Her hair forever drenched from tidal spray
Slicked back and sweeping down along her spine
Her lusty feet replace the mermaid’s tail
Resist and spurn the bitter lapping brine.
To the dogs released from summer servitude
On Sunny Sands, she’s just another stone
Their ball might bounce upon from owner’s throw
Or where they can relieve themselves alone.
A bare six summers has she settled there
Yet it seems to have been so many more
As if she’d witnessed history’s changing tides
Declining fish trade and the road to war.
When packet steam trains trundled down the hill
Into the harbour station and France bound ships
When English Tommy first tasted foreign food
Snails, mussels, garlic, frites instead of chips.
I trudge across still slippery lower rocks
To reach the stone she’s made her coastal home
And sit at her feet to see what she might see
While thwarting tourists with their camera phones.
Could she be looking to France or Belgium’s shore?
But rather her gaze looks upwards to the sky
As if in thanks this piece of Heaven should be
Where Cornelia Parker chose that she should lie.
Oblivious to the sights and sounds around
The squawk of seagulls or wave smashed shores
Mindless of games that gleeful children play
Upon the drying beach when tide withdraws.
Unheeding of the dirt and noise of building sites
Coronation Parade and Harbour Arm are now
She sits serene, majestic ‘midst the rush
A friend and confidant to all that vow.
Margate may have its Turner, Blackpool its Tower
Brighton its i360, St Ive’s its Tate
But none sing of the sea like our Folkestone girl
Stately and brave at England’s coastal gate.
I rise from the rocks with wave washed, creaking knees
While hers are as fresh and smooth as first she came
Two hours have passed since I joined her on that rock
A better use of time I could never dare to claim.
Two ferries cross each other in Dover’s strait
As the sun slides down over a silvery sea
Over her shoulder through darkening clouds
The coast of France gleams and bids bonne nuit.