I am years back and full of echoes.
Chlorine, urine, raucous
cuff of voices on broken surface.
A boy on the edge rowdily teeters
and you, knees flexed, arms back
are on the pulse of your stroke. Suppose
it is you, now, in the pink bikini, close
to making five hundred metres
as the ceiling splinters with echoes.

Suppose you touch the tiles on the turn
and vanish. The churn
of bubbles streams at your heels
and you shake water out of your ears
to catch the voice of your instructor
who paces you, outpaces you
on the blue-wet tiles. How her voice echoes.
You should not be wearing a bikini
and you were slow on the turn.

I am years back and full of echoes.
The silver stream where you swim
has long ago been swallowed,
but at your temples the lovely hollows
play in June light. Suppose
there is one length left in you, knees flexed
arms back. Chlorine, urine, raucous
voices on shattered surface. If that boy topples
the pair of you are gone.


Helen Dunmore, 12th December 1952 – 5th June 2017
This poem was originally published in our October/November 2015 Issue

Helen Dunmore was a poet, novelist, short story and children’s writer.  Her novels include Zennor in Darkness, awarded the McKitterick Prize; A Spell of Winter, awarded the  inaugural Orange Prize and The Siege, shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel  Award and the Orange Prize.  Her 2010 novel The Betrayal was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize. Her poetry collections have won the Alice Hunt Bartlett Award and  Signal Award; her poem The Malarkey won the National Poetry Competition. She was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. Her latest novel The Lie, was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize and the Walter Scott Prize.

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