The Swimmers





I have been standing here for nine months or more now. The tides have linished my legs to the knee, my calves are frosted to a pale green from the swirled sand. My right arm is lying beside me on the crushed razor shells. The cast-off is abraded now, though the scintillate edges are still sharp. When my arm sinks below the water, crabs crawl through the fingers; algae and seaweeds weft and warp around limpets that slide across the skin. I can still feel the sensations but I am sure these are just echoes of attachment.

It started a year ago, just the tips of my fingers at first, where I had brushed her skin that last time; pins and needles and a chill into the bones. I stopped breathing some time back, my lungs stuttered by the change; my last breath was filled with the salt-caked gale. Beneath the hard planes of my chest my heart is still beating, though there is no blood to push through my arteries. I know my heart will soon pause, the last slow pulse surrendering to the silence. Each day brings a new sense as the change creeps slow into me, stiffening each sinew, filling veins, arresting each muscle and tendon.

At first I wrote it down in the notebooks, covering pages with twinges and jabs. I wrote with pen or pencil until I couldn’t write any more. At first the pain was bearable. My muscles would twitch with involuntary spasms leaping legs and arms. Then the aching started in every joint, tears would drip to my jaw as I curled into some easier position on the bed. I dreamt of amputations, fantastical imaginings under the anaesthetics of the mind, hoping to wake with fewer limbs. The mornings would bring new jabs, sharp and incapacitating. Each day I found less of me and more of it and I knew I could not escape the change, I felt its slow whelm.

Now I wait for the end of this, listening to the tumbled mire of the Atlantic swell bear against the headland. My hearing is clearer than it has ever been; every tone and note of the ocean, every seabird cry and human voice, every ship’s wake and every stroke of the swimmers, every mermaid’s call. I watch my shadow spin with the sun, the refracted rainbows, splitting the light into a thousand hues of me. I watch the keening gulls piercing the water, their voices bitter and lost; the sandcastle children, Canutes in blue wellingtons, screaming and singing at the sea; the dog walkers hunched into the hard wind, their charges frothing in the surf; the beach fishermen, hoping for a catch in their solitude.

Beyond the edge of the land I watch the container laden cargoes, like the Argo of old, pitching past, searching for gold across the waves. I watch the lights pacing the dark hours from three lighthouses, sweeping the ocean for the lost. I watch for there is little else I can do; I am seized too far, sinking into the beach.

The Swimmers Draft
The Swimmers Draft