• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 12
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The Tale of the Distant Bather

Am I waiting for my lover?
No.    For I came here alone.    Once
I might have quaked at the thought.
Once,    you told me the why of the sunrise,
explained away the stars.    Now,
I watch the morning for its crowning,    not
its science. I’m sitting through the boil of waking day,
watching the puce-plum cauldron of fizzing reds,
the blatant victory of the white-hot, rising disc
over the kings of sludgy night.

Dawn, when the sea air goosed its dead fingers
is past. My nipples stood to the chill, cool as cod eyes,
I wore a pimpled coat of urchin lumps.    Worth it
to have crept away, left you slumbering off the rum
in a toss of sheets,    worth it    to shed the skin
of your clumsy need, your fumbling nudge.

My reward is heat – from blue with early cold, to blessed
with yellow rays, I let myself uncover.    Show
the bits that have me curdle at the mirror, have me
cover in disgust.    Yes, I am changed.    Yes,
I am blemish and bulk    but even as the whale
wears blubber and scratch-marks,    still it remains
beautiful in the ocean, still it sings.    You would shy
at my nakedness.    You would remember when
I was thin.    The sun bites into the sensitive scars
left by my carrying of our son –    pale and sore
against the bloom of tan, unaccustomed to this bare display,


The Tale of the Distant Bather

I will think of them as ripples along the sand.
The sting will pass.

My face stays hidden, under the raggedy fronds
round the brim of this old straw hat
you always hated.    Makes you look old.
                          Makes you look mad.
Darling, I never wore it for you – I wore it for its smell
of salt, of fish-waft freshness. Wore it for the memories,
stored beneath its dome. Some fusty spots of mould.
Its childish ribbon of bowed gingham,    faded.

You will be up for a late lunch now,    I guess.
Wondering where I am?    Stuffed, you will recline –
nod off again. Maybe later,    wander along the cliff top.
Look down – see someone, small as a chip of grit
before the green-blue swoop of ocean. You’ll predict
in the shortest while the wet will reach whoever this is.
You’ll wish your wife    had such a taste for adventure.
When you see me later, the talk will be of tide tables,
how there was this woman, playing a game of chicken
with the waves.    I will pack this secret as I pack
the scrabbled shells – take it home,    listen
to the sound of it,    hushhhhhhh    inside my head.

Hushhhhhhh  like the sound of the wind, curling the guts
of a whelk.  Hushhhhhhh  like the kissing of shore
and water.  Hushhhhhhh  like the fall from the tap.
I brought this back with me. I will know who I am.