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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 10: October 2021
Haibun: 395 words
By Patience Mackarness



It’s low tide, and I’m gathering seaglass. The beach shines. The colour of this late-spring late-afternoon is blue, cool and pale.

gems for the seeker
who tracks the restless strandline
sky sea melded blue

The glass is voluptuous, smoothed and frosted by tumbling in shingle for years, maybe centuries. There are stoppers, stems, thick bases, curved rims, fragments stamped with still-legible lettering.

There are a hundred greens and blues. White too: shades of Antarctic ice from lemon-tinged to faintly turquoise to palest greens and fragile rose-whites. By the time the tide’s moved in and the light fades, my bag will be full of clinking treasure.

battered by ocean
scourged and stroked into beauty
jewels from man trash

Into the litterbag in my other hand I stuff shards of plastic, bits of broken beach toys, and the barbed hooks used by anglers, with their obscenely rubbery fake-maggots. Also numberless lengths of plastic string, green and blue, from fishing-nets that the sea has torn and shredded. A pleasant surge of self-approbation, look, I’m a beachcomber and a beach-cleanser too, witness my symbiotic relationship with the sea, it gifts me gems, I take away its garbage, this is how to live well, this is how to be a proper human being.

When a curious passer-by asks, Qu’est-ce-que vous cherchez, Madame? I explain in my faltering French that I’m seeking verre de mer which I’ll transform into jewelry, bijoux, fait à main. I take care to mention the contents of my second bag, and the local gives a smile that might mean Bravo! or Weird! or maybe both, and when she’s moved on I keep feeling smug until I remember I’m a tiny dot on a long beach on the rim of an immense ocean that’s choked with shite, our shite, and wouldn’t it just be better if, instead of all this angst and feeble do-gooding and self-congratulation, we just wiped ourselves off the planet, the way we seem to be doing anyway, whether neatly or hideously doesn’t matter to Gaia, she’d smile her serene ancient smile and move on, she’d heal herself as she can, as she must, and it would be as though we’d never been here at all.

rising waters work
your savage smoothing alchemy
on our brute bones too

Patience Mackarness
Issue 10, October 2021

lives and writes in Brittany, France, where she also turns seaglass into jewelry. Her work has appeared in KYSO Flash, Lunch Ticket, Lost Balloon, Potato Soup Journal, and elsewhere. This is her first haibun.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Her Life in Trash, climate-crisis microfiction by Patience Mackarness in KYSO Flash (Issue 12, Summer 2019)

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