Staithes is a russet-roofed glacier,
inching down the skew of Roxby Beck
to bunch and crowd at harbour wall.
Three Sisters and All my Sons mud-locked
in patient wait for water.
Soundtrack of herring gulls and Kittiwakes.
Cowbar Nab, frosted with feathers, courting
place for gannets who glide in with love-gifts;
necklaces of sea grass, celery scented alexanders.
From Hartle Loup to Penny Nab, beachcombers
like bloodhounds, hunting for jet and amber,
white flute of bird bone; red shock of jasper.
- Staithes, by Vienna Forrester
The kitchen was already steaming hot by the time Mel and Jackie arrived. Both of the lads who worked the shift before them had a crush on Jackie, so usually they stuck around to help get the kitchen in order before they left. But Indrajit took one look at Mel’s stewing facial expression and elbowed Noah in the ribs. The two lads slunk out with hardly a ‘see you later’, leaving a pile of unwashed dishes in their wake.
The kitchen was partially separated from the bar area by a sliding window, which meant that at least Mel wouldn’t have to make small talk with the other restaurant staff. Jackie began loading dirty plates into the dishwasher. Mel grabbed a cutting board and angrily chopped a cucumber into thick slices. She flicked the slices into a bowl and reached for another cucumber. Chop. Flick. Repeat. With each wave of rancid steam from the industrial dishwasher, Mel’s foul mood only deepened. For nearly half an hour, the girls hardly spoke a word. Jackie finally broke the silence.
“You’re awful quiet today. And not your usual head-in-the-clouds kind of quiet. You’re angry about something.”
“Well, I’m wasting another day in the kitchen. So I don’t know if I’m supposed to be happy about that,” said Mel, nearly cutting her fingers as she grated a block of cheese.
Jackie nodded carefully. “You feel like it’s a waste of time.”
“Aye, I do. I mean, I study hard so I can get into uni, and I work hard so I can pay for uni, and Mam and Dad won’t even let me go to uni more than half an hour from home. If they’re not asking me how I’m going to pay the bills with a marine biology degree, they’re telling me it’s too expensive to study anywhere but here.”
“Don’t you have to take out a loan for your tuition anway? What’s a bit more to cover your accommodation in Bangor?” asked Jackie, dumping the water from an oversized pan she’d left to soak.
“Aye, they’ll take out a loan, but not a penny more than I need for my tuition. You know my mam and dad don’t trust loans. They don’t like to be indebted to anyone,” said Mel.
She grabbed a plate and angrily chipped away at a piece of food that had survived the dishwasher.
“Well if they’re going to hold you back, then you’ve just got to lie. Accept the offer from Bangor and don’t tell them.”
“You know, Jackie, you talk a big talk, but you hardly ever lie to your parents,” said Mel.
“Aye, that’s because they’re not trying to control me,” said Jackie. “Besides, I lied to my mam this morning about how long I’ve been seeing Roger.”
“My parents aren’t trying to control me.”
“You just said that they won’t let you study what you want to study or go to the uni you worked your wee hands off to get accepted to. Sounds controlling to me.”
“They’d let me go to Bangor if we weren’t poor.”
“Hmph,” said Jackie. “I smell an ulterior motive.”
Mel shrugged, reaching for another plate. “I’ve been thinking about applying for that plover internship I told you about. It’d be perfect for me. It’s just...”
“It’s not paid, that’s the problem right?”
Mel nodded. “I can’t afford to cut my work hours, and I need my spare time to study for
A-levels. But I really want to do it.”
Jackie worked her jaw, thinking. “I can tutor you in English. Help you edit your papers and such. I don’t mean to be condescending about it, but I am a good writer.”
“That’s kind, Jackie, but I just don’t think I can afford to–”
“Mel. You have been grumpy since the moment you got in the car–”
“I have not.”
“You’ve been grumpier than your baby brother, and that’s saying something. You are going to be grumpy until you give this internship a shot. You have to at least apply.”
“I probably won’t get it,” said Mel.
“Not with that attitude you won’t,” Jackie said. “Come on. Will you at least apply? For me?”
Mel threw her friend a sarcastic smirk. It was the first time she’d smiled all afternoon. She sighed dramatically.
“Fine,” Mel said, “but only for you.”
About the author: Ella Shively is an undergraduate studying natural resources and writing at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, USA. You can find her online at
About today’s featured poet: Vienna Forrester writes poetry inspired by the natural world and finds that the coast in particular provides a rich source of inspiration. She likes to write en plein air, immersed in her surroundings. In 2019, she completed her Master of Research: The Wild Self: An Exploration of Writing in Nature and she is currently pursuing a poetry PhD at the University of Hull.