The Statues on the Pier by Chris Mann
– from Palimpsests
~ Port Alfred pier, Eastern Cape, South Africa
A cold wind, buffeting in across a blank desolation of sea.
Terns flung into the air, veils of sand flying down a beach.
And bolted onto the open-air gallery of a pier, the statues.
They’re larger than life, but not beyond its flesh and blood.
Their backs are turned, away from the torn sky and the sea.
With metalled eyeballs they stare at their habitat – the land.
The hand of one is raised, breaking stone in a prison quarry.
The women of the next, rimed with salt, cradle a child.
Chiselled in the barnacled plinth of a third: Love one another.
Other plinths stand vacant on the pier. Can you not see them?
They’re yours to fill. Cast your own compassion there in bronze.
I give you the metal, I usher you into the foundry of your heart.
A wave smashes against the rocks, the air whitens with spray.
It cataracts down flared nostrils, the muscle of backs, a thigh.
Empty plinths gleam in the sun. Place your own shades there now.