Notes from the City, to the Sea

Today in the journal we're introducing a new talent: Cornish poet and singer/songwriter Josiah Mortimer currently lives and works in London, but he yearns to be back by the sea. If you'd like your poem to be featured on these pages, contact one of our editors, or use the form here.


Notes from the city, to the sea


I like my water free.

Not locked in, with concrete

or hemmed with steel


The barriers of old dockland

choke the estuary,

trapped by machine-hewn granite,

bordered by quay


But on the margins of this isle

three hundred miles away

from an oceanless empire

the sea breathes effortlessly.

It lolls, and rolls,

and lazes, and lashes

with total impunity.


If you want to witness liberty –

and feel it, too –

stand on Bedruthan steps

high above the waves

They breathe into you there

so all you can think is:

‘Engulf it all’, or

‘Share that precious liberty’


But I am not on those steps

where granite is uncarved

         (not by man, at least)

or among First Nature, as it wants to be


Instead, I am back to wharf

and the cold humanity

of paved-over wetland

Terra firma, foot-worn

by those seeking

a semblance of the sea


But it’s a poor copy.

The water here is a lion, caged


There is, though, I’ll admit,

a memory –

which is, incidentally,

why I’ve come here;


remembering, yearning

for a Real Thing:

the wild roar

of Cornish coast

rattling headland, defiant

Shouting to the sky:

‘This is what it is

to be


Here, in this huge city

I strain to hear it –

over aeroplanes, cars,

crowded high streets


But by the docks

I think I feel something

                a shared memory, or

                the song of a longing

for that precious liberty


And if I focus, I can feel

the desire of bridled water,

to roar at the sky once more –

‘I am free, truly, free’