Down by the Shore

I wrote this poem a while ago but I kept it quietly in my notebook because I felt that the words were given to me as comfort in a difficult time rather than pretty lyrics for show. It doesn’t have a title because there isn’t really one which springs out for it. When We Were Young doesn’t cut it for me but something like Down by the Shore would suffice because it was at the shore that the first verse came to mind.

   Good poetry is self-explanatory but I don’t write to that level (that much is evident) so the story behind it is this:

   It was the best of times and it was the worst of times… Not really. Everything seemed to be changing and falling apart in my life and where some things were falling apart, new things — relationships, experiences, hopes and dreams and the like — were growing up in their places although there felt like a few empty gaps at the time. Well, water calms me, I don’t know why. Perhaps it is because the sea makes me feel small and rather weak but at the same time reminds me of the glory of a God who could make such an incredible phenomenon, the God who I rely on for all my own strength. Whatever the reason, when life becomes too much or when I am stressed or sad or even just exhausted, I go down to the water’s edge and walk there. It stills my soul. And so one day, at the end of my tether, I went down to the beach to watch the curlews and oyster-catchers and gather my thoughts. As they strutted about in the mud, my mind wandered back to the many days I spent at the beach as a child, digging holes and building sand castles with my brothers and our friends. These particular friends have been around for more than twenty years. I grew up with their kids and we too are good friends. As I thought of them, I began to think of the future and how difficult it is to spend time with them because of work, university and sheer distance yet we still manage. But I also have… acquaintances for whom it is too much to take an hour on the train to come visit when I just need a friendly face in the chaos.

   Twenty years is a long time to be friends, but the thing was that in the midst of other failing friendships, I knew that in twenty years time, even with the distance of three hundred miles, we’ll still be friends with those guys. The years have passed so quickly but the friendship has lasted. This poem is not about a romantic love but about the love of friends which always abides even when everything else changes. Places change in our absence. People change. The seasons fly past and the summers don’t linger any more. Life seems so much trickier than it was at eight years old. But friendship — true friendship — abides. I know that in twenty, forty, sixty years time, I’ll still love every line which ages their faces, just like we loved each other as children playing knights in the forest by the beach.

The river runs swift here, as swift as the time

Go down to the shore where the wind tastes of brine

And look at the seashells all laid in a line

It was simpler when we were young.


It’s funny how things fade as we change and grow

This is the same but not the same place that I know,

But where else is there for us to go?

It was simpler when we were young.


I’d follow you anywhere, to any place

That way, side by side, we’d keep growing in grace,

Loving each line which ages your face

As simply as when we were young.

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