Later Poems 1
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Poems from WINTER BATHING (Castaway Press, 1980)

Our Father
August Bank Holiday
Walking in Winter, Oxwich Bay
Poem Out-of-Season
Winter Bathing, Caswell Bay
Night-Bathing, Llangenneth



We bury him in sand -
secretly while he sleeps.
I take the legs, cover kneecap and shin
the mountain of his feet;
you take the rest:
the hillock of balls
the steppe of abdomen
the vast savanna of his chest...

He does not stir.
We burrow and dig like dogs
deck him with seaweed
top him with turret and tower
and lollipop sticks of flags

Larger than life he lies - a cast,
a cairn of pebbles and stones, a lone sarcophagus
the wave will smother...

But no.

Now, as always
one by one, he opens his eyes:

untethered, unchained
Almighty god our Gulliver
as live as Lazarus

he earthquakes up



-out of the blue it spots:
deckchairs collapse
air-beds hiss
deflatable dinghies fart

towels and clothes are grabbed
basket and hamper stuffed
children smacked as

the Heavens unload

Still in the water I watch
the sudden stampede - its riot and rush
the ragged remnants staggering up the stones

until no-one remains.
In queue and cafe they stand
watching the sand dye darkly brown
debris of plans, the day's mad hieroglyphs

Rain falls ringing the water, stinging
my eyelids and eyes

My father waves - a ship-wrecked sailor on the shore - calls
to the deep, to the lone last boy who dives
and ducks
deaf to all syllables



The gross belly holds the towel tight
the buttock's shimmy; the stark legs stagger, balancing
the torso's ghastly white

The rubber tyre of waist will not deflate.
The trunks squeeze on
moulding the ancient genitals

Spring again!

The ritual water waits
like last year and the next
for this, The Body Beautiful.

I do not stop to crease the trousers
put the watch, the bunch of keys and silver safe
but charge, full-pelt -

The sea roars,
waiting to salve and absolve



one gallops on
is Lawrence of Arabia, is Ghengis Khan
The other strides the shore-line, seven-league booted
watching his bootprints fill
and fade

I button up, dig hands in pockets, perishing,
the Tor no nearer now
than when we started
The dark lines crash, lick upon lick of white - a blur
and they are far ahead
of me - faint sand grains moving

The sun wheels swiftly round...

- now it is they who cannot keep up
One cries: I hoist and carry him
and we turn away from the day's mirage

I am St. Christopher, slipping and cursing
up the wet rock face. He reins me on.
Winter glitters in his eyes
His hands are star-fish sharp and cold
and his breath on my neck is dragon smoke and fire




Taller than steeples
taller than tanker and tug, the midge
of a motor-boat, the glint
of a car in distant Devon,
I sound the stone:
each river-crack, each chip
each fissured Amazon -
all morning scrape and hack:

old continents of paint
flake down like snow...


A pilot boat snails out to meet a Coaster...

I fill each tributary, smooth
each delta flat, sink
my brush in the brilliant dark, arc
to the apex -

the ladder trembles

I pause,
watching the minute bathers in the Bay
turn in the sun
like larvae


and the regatta gone

Still-life of empty cans
brushes, chippers and scrapers, rags
under an egg-shell moon...

Too tired to sleep, I lie
paint behind my nails and in my hair
hearing your muffled breathing

I stare far out to sea
counting the seconds between flash and flash

Still against the wall
the ladder casts its long geometry
of shadow



Early Autumn in the empty Lounge.
The radiator throbs.
A barmaid polishes the counter
as I sip my beer
in the warm and filtered sun

Out there, the thickness of glass away
light needles the horizon
pine trees shiver -
a single surfer battles with the wind and spray...

Idly, I watch him:
cumulus and alto-cumulus burst about him
as he crouches there - live flotsam
tossed and dipped beneath the foam...

An hour to closing time.
The barmaid yawns and stares far out to sea
burnishing a glass as, crest after crest
he struggles to rise -
oblivious to her or me

- a puny Christ
a sole survivor
smaller than the window's fly



You stay to guard my clothes
and off I race goose-pimpled
in my underpants

There is no-one for miles -
car park empty
sea-front stores all shuttered up
The wind
rips through my hair
and halfway there I turn
and you are small
and playing among rocks
already oblivious

On I run
in the December sun
belly-bouncing blue-titted
dodging the razored shell
leaping the brittle bladderwrack -
pursued chased
my feet
less than a flicker
on a seismograph until
they splash splinters of fire
I dive
like a stone
and the dark is deafening

Upright and still
I can no longer see you

Crests crash smoking all around

I gaze through the crystal cold
at my faraway feet
white as a drowned man's



Skin-flake -
strange dandruff
like snow
from my sock

you will
hoover it



through the gap in the curtains
above the stark mound of my feet
above rooftop and spire -
pin-prick of light
there and not there
flashing like the first idea

side to back
head to head on the pitch black pillow
in the shipwreck of our room
still in the dark we lie
you asleep and I awake
and watching

its wild dot-dash -
cold and mute, erratic as a star
lighting and not lighting
the second the minute the hour...

dense nights of loneliness
and desperate collisions



At night I stole out past the whispered touch
of reed and fern
and padded barefoot to the sea

crickets scraped the silence all around
pale shafts of light swept up the Universe

I kindled a flame to fierce brilliance -
the hills leapt back: salt crackled green, green
juices flared fanged furious white and orange; timber
and tendril fumed, bladderwrack split and spat
and dense black soared away
into a denser black

In the still deep darkness
under the water
I opened my eyes

Level with flotsam and star, I waded the furthest latitudes,
long stalks of legs, feet
moving like shades on the silent bottom

Lights dwindled on the far peninsula.
I plunged
and plunged, I drove
scalding the foam, salting the wounds
crushing the sand to rock

then still again
and still
riding the tug and the slack
wave lapping hair
I floated
fingering fine traceries
sounding the surge
and the suck
the sleek sand sizzling past the stones

My fire burned the colour of my clothes

I lay alone. I gently rocked.
Horizons boomed between my toes


ALAN PERRY. Oxwich Bay, Gower.

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