Summer swim


Head out of the window at the opening hour 

to a white sky, 

white silk sea.


Scrawl a note, leave it on the landing.

‘Gone for swim. Back soon. Love mum xxxx’


It’s warm, so just bikini, skirt and sandals, 

the summer luxury of nearly nothing.

Step out of the front door and it’s like diving in, 

air all over me, describing the day against my skin.

I wake, 

quiver in response.


Tread softly across the shingle

(rough steps could break it)

then sit,

burrow feet into stones already warm.

My hands seek stones too, as if by filling them I will have more of the day. 

But I can’t have or hold it, of course. 

I drop them.

Wait for the morning to fill me.


Gulls sit in solemn silence

A most worshipful company of gulls, this congregation by the sea.

An early dog races joyfully into their midst.

They rise and fly across the water, 

notes on a stave

a matins psalm.


I stand, walk with unsteady shingle gait to the water, 

to the sea side. 

I am tremulous; 

can enter only gently, with shy glances, feeling naked.

The first touch of water over my feet is brief – a quick cold lick and they’re bare again, 

but I open out with joy, 

unbalance with it, laughing, stretching out my arms to stay upright.


The sea gathers around me and we move forward together,

my eyes held in the tawny liquid world around my feet and legs.


To enter a clear sea is something like falling slowly from a height, 

at each step less of me remains, 

until I’m just head and shoulders, and dizzy at the depth before me.

I stop – I must fly or I will fall- 

so I swim.


On my back, the world is sea and sky, 

and round as a planet.

A whole sky, not ruled off by buildings; 

a wild sea, for all our charts and lanes and rules.


The water is set in jelly mould ripples;

skin so smooth, it cannot be,

and I reach to stroke it and break it

to pieces.


A feather floats, a curved boat

I tread water and circle it, stare closer and closer

for under it is a sub aquatic feather arch; 

A reflection so perfect, it is impossible there isn’t another feather beneath;

So I touch it with my human need to be sure and it sticks to the water, clumping damp and ruined.


I let it be.

Lie back and listen to the ocean silence, 

stamp a foot to hear its muffled timpani thump.


Suddenly I twist, flip and roll,

winding the green silk sea tight around my legs;

I stop suddenly to release it

and laugh at the absurd sea creature I have become, 

with my mermaid feet fins and beaver hand paddles and swirling billowing hair, 

my mushroom gills. 


But I am full, completely alive.

Open my arms wide in the wide wide sea 

and circle round and round to sweep the world up in my embrace.


It is at the edge of the sea

I slide out of myself and this world

And go somewhere else.

I don’t know if it’s the way out 

or the way in, 

but I desire it. 

I am set differently, to a different tune, lying in the sway. 


Tempo lento, sweet and low

Head the pendulum, body tick tock slow. 

Sedate me, transport me

Mesmerise sea. 


Thoughts slip my head

Mesmerise me.


I am a trance state, barely being. 

Is this an existence?

Complete and unseeing?


or complete?

I’m not sure I care.


Unlit brain, 

electrics shot

lulla lulla lullaby rock…


But something keeps me hooked on life. 

My hair catches on the stones, 

shoulders crunch shingle; 

I am grounded.


Giddy, I roll and heft my clumsy seal self to sitting,

bore down into the stones for balance.

It’s hard to focus eyes or body

so I edge backwards out of the water;

wait until there is a moment I can stand;

stagger back to my stuff.


Heaven is available here at the seaside.

Just cross the much needled shingle, 

make your way around the couples copulating the end of last night, 

and to the morning sun’s first flash of the pier disco ball 

you can lie down and enter the next world.


But, in truth, I don’t know where it is.


I do know it is a perfect balance, on the edge, 

hands empty 

not trying at all

And I wonder if perhaps this fierce intense empty

is life full


Is eternity.



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