Swimmer

Matthew Sweeney

For the umpteenth time I looked out at the sea
but there was nothing to catch my eye,
just a man wheeling a barrow up the beach.
I looked again, frisking the whole expanse
for a ship, a boat, any floating debris
but all I saw was a cat in the marram grass
slinking towards three rabbits playing.
The waves were apologetic on the shingle,
after the excesses of the previous night,
and the sun had lit a strip of the horizon.
All the scene needed was one small boat

but none stubbornly came. Then suddenly,
a mile or so out, I saw a swimmer –
there was no mistaking that bobbing head.
I rummaged in every drawer in the house
but none held binoculars. I ran upstairs again.
He or she was still there – it was a she,
I decided, and she’d made this swim before.
This was a training run for the big one –
across the Atlantic. That was why
no boats were in attendance, no copters
overhead, no paparazzi on the beach, waiting.

Up above me the roofers were hammering
as if nothing was happening. I heard a laugh
and thought of the woman in the water.
She’d be tired, hungry, cold. It was up to me
to meet her with a towel, bring her back
to my radiators and a scorching coffee,
maybe a bath, if she could still stand water.
I went to the window to see if she was near
but she’d gone, there was no head there!
I ran out, and down the lane to the beach.
The sea sent small waves to break at my feet.