Ben Nicholson Throws a Rubber Shark at Eileen Agar Polzeath, July 1937

Perhaps there is more than one way of loving the world, Miss Agar.

Perhaps you are right.

I am booting lonely stones on Perranporth Beach as I struggle with this letter

late this morning by the hunting sea.


I apologise again for that silliness with the shark.

My memory has fixed a photograph of you

smearing blood from above your cut lip

inadvertently down and over your mouth.


So a tiny red haze of cloud blurs above the pad as I sketch,

drawing from the touch of things and from memory.

I am working on a half-landscape of plates which are suns

and the flanks of hills too, quartered.


Near my fingertips this morning

were the cups and bottles on my kitchen table.

I’m doing this, Miss Agar – I want to tell you this, despite my error –

because I am hesitant about the world.


Perhaps I don’t, as you said, love the world at all

and design only altars that spurn worship

and colour them white and call them something else.

That blue-on-darker-blue Biting Sea you once gave me


I have still. Always, even if I close my eyes,

the sound about me all the time is the pursuing,

shushing, jabbing sea

              that smooths a hand towards me

and rubs itself out.