The thirsty slurp of the mud-grey sea
on pebbled beach. Insane shrieks
of wheeling gulls, practised complainers.
The low rumble of slow moving traffic
along Marine Parade. Blinding light
flashes off stuccoed hotels and creamy
apartment blocks, the long sweeping curve
of centuries-old elegance declining
all the way to Hove, Shoreham and Portslade.
In the chilly sunshine, the pier stretches
its lacy fingers out to sea. Pennants
flutter from corrugated turrets. Empty
light-bulbs wink in remembered glory
of the glitter-glamour of last night’s funfair.
A lone runner, razor-sharp against the light,
jogs into the hazy future, trailing behind
stories of laughter, the thumping sound of jazzy
nights, of love won and lost on the hoopla stand,
of Pinkie and Rose, the sharp-shouldered cut
of his thin suit, her all-purpose floral dress, and
the headlong drive to Peacehaven.
A newsagent sets out his paper stand: “Body
found in Hove beach-hut.” The sea’s surge
washes the pebbles again and again.
I wrote this poem when my daughter, Sarah, lived in Brighton and we went there often. It was there I began a novel, a psychological thriller, that ended with the West Pier going up in flames. Years later the pier did exactly that, set alight by unknown arsonists. The pier in my poem is the more famous Palace Pier that features in Graham Greene’s novel, Brighton Rock. Pinkie and Rose are the two main characters in that novel and the “headlong drive to Peacehaven” occurs at the novel’s denouement. The paper stand reference to a body in a Hove beach-hut is a nod to my unpublished psychological thriller that began with the discovery of a body of young man in just such a beach-hut.