Here, standing on the beach, is Dad.
Beach? It's Riverton, rocks and gravel
from the tarmac to the grey sea's edge.
Black and white. He holds an oblate stone
scoured out from the distant Alps
milled and rolled by frigid water.
He holds it poised for skimming. Out
it will arc, skip, skip, to fall
and sink for half a fathom.
I snapped him with my old Box Brownie. His eyes
look far beyond the frame I gave him.
Shadowed from the sun, impassive,
they are skipping over the years,
walking the waves to England.
is the work of a moment and a lifetime
A lifetime of failing to swim
a moment of inattention
Smaills Beach, and the swell is rising
Southerly and a flowing wind
Too rough to swim, even for the swimmers:
we stand and breast the waves
One moment, I'm in my depth
the next, a surge, and I'm not:
Swept into a hollow instead, the air
two feet above my straining head
I jump and wave and jump again
then drift, unseeing, downwards
I jump and wave and jump again.
Feet churn the waves towards me
They drag me out
they pump me full of air
they press me down amid the lupins.
Later, slumped in the back of the car
watching them buy me an ice cream
I think of my lonely brother
head battered by the rocks, heart
beating in the rhythm of the tide
Smaills Beach, where I split in two:
the traveller, and the one who calls him home.