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Poetry Pleases: Afternoon Swim, Castebellate

Paddy Webb's poem conjures up a perfect time and place.

Green the hillside rested in late sun, siesta warm
Spiced with sun-drawn scent of rosemary
Drowsed by distant blue green sound of sea.
Red hibiscus glowed on black–green shining leaves
And slow fall of purple olives dropped
From gnarled grey branches, lichen clung.
Limpid, still, the pool invited, silver, blue.

The children waited,
Giggling Matthew said It's boiling!
Temperature is relative, I replied, which means
Boiling is colder when you are sixty four
Than it is when you are six. And you are standing
Wrapped in a big pink towel, shivering.
His grin was a side expanse of toothlessness.
Knee deep I stepped into the clear, breath-catching pool,
Exaggerated the expected shrieks and shivers.
Michael rolled in mirth, thin legs in air.
You've got to splosh – Ali three year wise, naked
On the poolside, low sun red gold in auburn hair.
So I sploshed and the water enfolded me
Like a frozen shroud as they cheered. My rapid stroke
Fractured the water into waves, rainbow sprayed
Till I emerged into the blessed warmth of sunset air.

Then, puppy sprawled, they lay watching as the sun
Flamed amber, rose and gold; pink fleckled the foam lace
Where breakers rumbled on the shore; gilded
Fishing boats that rose and fell towards the harbour wall.
High up above a bell, glass sharp, tolled, then
To an under tow of deep sea sound,
An older, sore throated, rasped the Angelus,
Slowly the ocean turned indigo. A gleam of light
Glowed on black headland rocks, darkening the sky.

I told them the story of Odysseus who long ago,
Sailed past this very spot on his way to distant Troy.
Perhaps pulled up his boats on the beach below,
Leaped through pounding surf, built his camp-fire on the shore,
Listened to the waves, thought of Ithica, candle warm.

A half moon rose above the shadowed hill,
Laid over ink dark water a path of pale light.
Cool air tingled the skin. Small night sounds rustled
Above the surging sound of the sea.

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