Holcombe - the last time
The deckchairs incessantly flapped, black and white
stripes in the brisk, east wind, where an old man
doggedly sat, wrapped in his coat made from best
Harris tweed – flecked brown and green, blowing free.
Each day he would stroll to the sea, walking arm-in-arm
with ghosts of the past, where he and his wife would rest
for a while drinking camomile tea from a cream-coloured
flask with cucumber sandwiches, occasionally.
He smiled as he watched a small child in blue water-wings
shyly flirt with the shore, looking for treasures he’d often
hunt for like barnacled crabs and black knobbly seaweed
that went pop in one’s fingers. Winced as a pain shot
through his jaw – loosened his scarf; his breath rasped
short and sharp; clasped his fist to his chest.
In a moment it passed as the girl with the water-wings
knelt down by his chair.
“You OK?” she asked. "I didn’t mean to stare. If you like
you could watch me. I’ve just learned how to swim …
and you looked a bit lonely,” as she stared up at him
with wide eyes brimful of tomorrows.
“I’d be glad to,” he replied as she threw him the wings.
“Now I can swim, I shan’t be needing these!”
‘Must be in my second childhood,’ the old man mused,
as he watched her chase the waves, which reminded him
of something his father used to say, “Childhood’s a place,
not a time.” Then, in a trice, she was lost from his sight.
With a gulp and a splutter, a wave had knocked her over,
but she’d soon jumped up again, large as life. Then,
that stabbing pain again, like someone dug a knife
between his ribs. As he rushed to help, how he wished
he’d learned to swim. “Swim for me,” breathlessly he yelled.
“Come and get yourself dried!” called her mother, anxiously.
It will soon be time for tea. Thank the gentleman, but nicely.”
“The pleasure’s been all mine,” he replied.
He waved goodbye and watched them go, as the sun
hung low – an orange ball. He walked out to catch it
as it sunk into the sea. Water lapped cool about his waist –
the wet sand, soft beneath his feet. A backward glance
to the beach – the little girl standing there.
“Don’t worry about me,” he cried. “I’ll be quite alright.
I’ve got my wings and though I don’t know how to swim,
you taught me how to fly.”