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13 December 2021

Litany of the Shoreline by Naush Sabah

over        head     billowing

     headscarf       white as surf

                       like    a hug 

billowing like a curtain 

                  or a flag    hanging    like 

            a noose        a mask    like 

       a blanket     a sheet



                      falling wrapped 










                    dig run         pile shape 

  press and    bury          kick and       claw


pack tightly into               

   buckets        and        flood        with seawater 

collapse with toes and run shout laugh     

      and fall fling still still in the water            

             be buried be moved 

                     wet heavy


touch of air 

   kiss of breeze 

on bronzed skin 

  clumps of sand 

cling sculpted

and motionless 

  but for a sweep 

    of hair 


and glistening 

   in the sun 

in the baked sand 

  by the shoreline 

      in the salt air 

         of the shoreline 

     in the sway tug 

of the shoreline 

  still shining 

gold bare



there’s an art to looking 

   away to seeing

  and unseeing to know

     ing and avoiding 

  to taking in wholly but refusing 

      to see there’s an ease 

    in her squareness 

 confidence in her ordinariness ease in her 


  and skin 

in her 


   love in her 

running running by the shoreline running by the sea embracing a friend naked 

       bare breasts 




watch me watch me watching you look at me looking 

look at me          here too        the other side of that sea


    at me 

at me concealed by the shoreline by the sea

    lap me up at the sea

      look at me burying my feet in the sand

look at me stand 

   in the sea

look at my legs glistening 

bare in the sea

  wisps of my hair

     in the sea air

   my scarf 


   in wind

by the 



subject to me this shoreline and this sea

   the eye of the land is looking at me

 and no veil covers me

nothing veils me

 though I elude them

  disfigure the faces



subject to me 

each shoreline



'Litany of the Shoreline' was first published in Litanies (Guillemot Press, 2021). Wasafiri 108, on the libraries and literatures of Islam, is available to order now.  Naush Sabah is a writer from the West Midlands. She is Editor and Publishing Director at Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal and a trustee at Poetry London. Her work has appeared in The Poetry Review, the TLS, PN Review, The Dark Horse, and elsewhere. Her debut pamphlet Litanies was published by Guillemot Press in November 2021. Photo by Josh Withers on Unsplash
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