Girl in the Blue Pool

    Helen Dunmore, 2014, Credit: Caroline Forbes


    I am years back and full of echoes.
    Chlorine, urine, raucous
    cuff of voices on broken surface.
    A boy on the edge rowdily teeters
    and you, knees flexed, arms back
    are on the pulse of your stroke. Suppose
    it is you, now, in the pink bikini, close
    to making five hundred metres
    as the ceiling splinters with echoes.

    Suppose you touch the tiles on the turn
    and vanish. The churn
    of bubbles streams at your heels
    and you shake water out of your ears
    to catch the voice of your instructor
    who paces you, outpaces you
    on the blue-wet tiles. How her voice echoes.
    You should not be wearing a bikini
    and you were slow on the turn.

    I am years back and full of echoes.
    The silver stream where you swim
    has long ago been swallowed,
    but at your temples the lovely hollows
    play in June light. Suppose
    there is one length left in you, knees flexed
    arms back. Chlorine, urine, raucous
    voices on shattered surface. If that boy topples
    the pair of you are gone.


    Helen Dunmore, 12th December 1952 – 5th June 2017
    This poem was originally published in our October/November 2015 Issue

    Helen Dunmore was a poet, novelist, short story and children’s writer.  Her novels include Zennor in Darkness, awarded the McKitterick Prize; A Spell of Winter, awarded the  inaugural Orange Prize and The Siege, shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel  Award and the Orange Prize.  Her 2010 novel The Betrayal was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize. Her poetry collections have won the Alice Hunt Bartlett Award and  Signal Award; her poem The Malarkey won the National Poetry Competition. She was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. Her latest novel The Lie, was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize and the Walter Scott Prize.