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Oyster Seventeens


Sapphires in a hurry-flutter:

two dozen starlings

rush to Sheppey.


Seaweed garlands roll on the high

tide, full

moon’s tangle of jet and jade.


The sea cradles me; my

best mother.

I roll and kick like a baby.


Ripples brush your naked shoulder,

a sibilance,

a sparrow’s whisper.


My skin, dulled under hospital lights,


in blustery sunshine.


Twilight wraps blankets of

crimson glory

around this evening’s shoulders.


Sky is honeyed mango slivers,

dark rum-soaked,

with pomegranate seeds.


Laughter waltzes with garlic prawns,

jives with olives,

pirouettes with wine.


Between the bowls and candlelight

stretch moments

of perfect contentment.


Low tide takes its muted leave –

soft pools

marooned while oystercatchers play.


Whitstable, harbour of tangible


peace glides into dock.


Where sea and sky merge in a

thousand pinks

aligns the mind’s horizon.


This fresh day. Let’s shuck it

open, feel

gusto pour between our fingers.



© Rosie Johnston

Picture 10500556, Jacob Foppens van Es, Still Life with Oysters, oil on panel, mid-17th century, image copyright Mary Evans / Ashmolean Museum



Rosie Johnston’s three poetry books, published by Lapwing Publications in Belfast, are Sweet Seventeens (2010), Orion (2012) and Bittersweet Seventeens (2014). Her poems have appeared or featured in Hedgerow, London Grip, Culture NI, FourxFour, The Honest Ulsterman, Ink, Sweat & Tears and in Live Canon’s anthologies 154: In Response to Shakespeare’s Sonnets (2016) and New Poems for Christmas (2018). She has read her poetry widely, including Hungerford Literary Festival, Watford’s Big Word Festival, Winchester’s Loose Muse, the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden, The Troubadour, Torriano Meeting House, In-Words Limited, and Whitstable’s Harbour Books. Between 2014 and 2018 Rosie was poet in residence for the Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust, until she moved to live by the sea in Kent. @RosieJpoet