Mudlark No. 63 (2017)

Tidal Flats: Poems
by Christien Gholson

Cover of Mudlark No. 62 (2017)

Bryn Mill Pipe, Swansea Bay, Photograph by Christien Gholson

 And it is a dream at sea such as we never dreamt, and it is the Sea
in us that will dream it:
The Sea, woven in us, to the last weaving of its tangled night, the Sea
weaving its great trails of darkness —

                                                            Seamarks, St. John-Perse

Introduction to Tidal Flats: Beauty & Terror

The original notes for Tidal Flats were written in Swansea, Wales between October 2009 and December 2011, while my wife was a student at Swansea University. Although I was lucky enough to have a UK work visa, I could not find any consistent work for the entire two and a half years I lived there. Because of this, I spent the better part of my time roaming the strand along Swansea Bay, across the mud flats at low tide (the bay has the second largest tidal range in the world—a difference of 7 to 9 meters between high and low tide), the neighborhoods around the bay, and Gower—a peninsula near Swansea that juts westward into the Bristol Channel.

Being so close to so much water, after years in the dry American West, was disconcerting, but also brought up ancient thoughts of the ocean as the original womb. My first month walking those mud flats, I envisioned one of the first fish (still available within my genes) looking out through my eyes. So, the poem began with the idea of human ancestry reaching back to the first fish, how we have been shaped by surrounding living systems, the history of life on earth alive within us all, and the question of how to access that beauty.

The Copenhagen Climate Change Conference was taking place at the same time I connected with that first fish (late 2009), and I felt a deep sense of dread when the US government could not face the realities of climate change and refused to act in a useful and coherent way (visions of millions of climate refugees fleeing resource wars/rising sea levels, mass extinction. . .). We were crossing the point of no return. The cycles, as humans have always known them, were going to change. From this came the terrifying question: how does the human mind absorb and deal with something as vast and unprecedented as the consequences of climate change? And from that question came others: what does “praise” mean in relation to nature now? And this: what do we mean when we say “the end?”   — CG


1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
11. 12. 13. 14. 15.
16. 17. 18. 19. 20.
21. 22. 23. 24. 25.


Christien Gholson is the author of two books of poetry: All the Beautiful Dead (Bitter Oleander Press, 2016; Finalist for the New Mexico Book Award), and On the Side of the Crow (Hanging Loose Press, 2006; re-issued by Parthian Books in the UK, 2011); and a novel, A Fish Trapped Inside the Wind (Parthian, 2011). Other work at Mudlark includes the long poems Kill-Floor, The Sixth Sense, and The Black Edge. Gholson’s take on Beauty & Terror, the paintings of Leonora Carrington, Rimbaud, The Hiroshima Panels, and other subjects (including the work of other poets), can be found on his blog: noise & silence. He lives in New Mexico.

Acknowledgments: Sections of Tidal Flats have previously appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Section 9; New Welsh Review, Section 23, and Poetry Wales, Sections 1 to 3, 5, and 7.

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