No Witness

Philip Rösel Baker

Image of Philip Rösel Baker

Philip Rösel Baker

No Witness was selected for MSUL’s themed call for work about Water, in coordination with the MSU Broad Art Museum’s fall 2023 exhibition, Flint is Family in Three Acts, featuring the photography of Latoya Ruby Frazier.

A single drop of rain 
splatters on dry sand. Not pure water,
but rain nonetheless. And more rain follows.
Wind whips droplets to urgent drumbeats.
The seashore pockmarks with tiny hollows.
Lightning cracks malevolent clouds
and the beach begins to drown in rain.
Hailstones pound islands of rock-strewn shore,
that still lie above water, miniature meteors
crunching the ground, while the wind rants 
wild garbled snatches. A random patchwork 
of pockets collects frozen marbles, 
like balls in roulette.
Clouds tear apart, revealing gashes
of ochre and mauve in the ash-heavy sky.
The orange background glow of methane
yields to a flash from an angry volcano,
muttering thickly inland. Hailstones flicker 
refracted colours, as they slowly melt into sand.
The tide retreats down the long, shelving beach
leaving pools where cyanobacteria thrive,
silently laying down lime-matted floors 
in stromatolite citadels, doors swinging wide open, 
balconies empty except for the odd sand grain,
corridors untrodden but for stray chlorophytes,
left high and dry.
The bickering storm rolls away 
across violet waves, seeking the west. 
In its wake, clumps of algae flex and extend,
tendrils stretching, reaching to absorb the fast waning light, 
fuelling new cells to clone themselves. 
In a tangerine haze, the weak sun, sucked down 
by the quicksand horizon, aborts. The beach returns to a peace
of sorts.
This is our Earth, before it was ours,
before the illusion of ownership evolved 
to invade stromatolite towers, before a profusion of eukaryotes 
stirred in the oceans.
There is light - but no eyes 
for light to enter. No seeing life, of any kind.
No witness.
Philip Rösel Baker is an English poet of mixed European heritage. He lives in a converted barn in a remote hamlet in East Anglia, where the horizons are wide and the night skies dark. In 2022, two of his poems were longlisted for the International Erbacce Prize, and another won the George Crabbe Poetry Award. His poems have been published in various magazines and anthologies, most recently in On a Knife Edge, a climate change collection published by Suffolk Poetry Society and the Lettering Arts Trust. Contactable on

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