The Front

It stood firm for a fortnight, a cloud coast that marked the front. All along the west it towered; a full pan from north to south held it in view. We watched it from the beach each day for signs of movement. It didn’t budge. I thought of a tidal wave, freeze-framed, but didn’t say. Somebody on the third night described it as a parting of the Red Sea and then I couldn’t help but squint for seals or fish caught in its watery updraft, but saw nothing. At certain times of day you would have sworn you looked upon a land mass with terns and gannets nested in its darkness. Once, it grew the grey lip of a carrier deck. Sunsets came a few degrees early and, backlit, it glowed like something molten, the birds heading for home crossing its lid like car adverts with the sound turned down. A two-week high of learning to live with it, of tuning into paperbacks and rock-pools; the way the thrill of snow-capped peaks in summer will slowly thaw, become invisible and be just there: so it was with the front. On the last day we woke to rain as thick as diesel slicking the windows, all the shadows scattered, the light turned low. We were inside it. Paul Farley


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