Sea Swim

By Andrew McMillan

This poem by Andrew McMillan is part of the ILS' 'Crossing Borders' series.

it was the easiest I’d felt undressing
at least sober   that quickfound intimacy
of you shimmying from your dress into costume
me unprepared in yfronts      I could already
feel my body pulled down with the weight of years
it had lived through   you were almost the other side
of your sixties   and you were beautiful
walking slowly to the edge through the foam
and out into the open water   cold waves
breaking at our ankles   then our stomachs
then diving in      even though it was flatcalm
that morning   you could still feel the power
in the pulling back       after twenty minutes
we decided to walk the length of the beach
to dry ourselves   as you described how the sea
heaves the beach around   shifts its borders
we passed the house the tide pulls closer every year  
metres of rock hewn off   tossed away      you showed me
the trees lopsided from the cliff fall    roots
upturned and hardened like a fossilised
crustacean      we talked life and love and Brexit  
I wondered if one day the people of that house
would wake to find their lives capsizing      we talked
politics   your recent widowhood    we passed
a nudist   maybe in his eighties
his muscle fallen into itself   arse shining
in the sun    time will make all things feel slow
but the changes will be brutal

Photo credit: Natural England/Julian Dowse