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Sport 2: Autumn 1989

The Ocean Baths

page 41

The Ocean Baths

Chinning the bar or Thirties concrete rim
of this ocean baths as the surf flings velleities of spray
brimming the bright screen
I am in not the sea but the sea's television.

As the one starfish below me quivers up
through a fictive kelp of diffraction, I'm thinking of workers
who made pool-cementing last, neap tide by neap,
right through the Depression

then went to the war, the one that fathered the Bomb
which relegated war to the lurid antique new nations
of emerging television. All those appalling horizontals
to be made vertical and kept the size of a screen —

I duck out of focus
down chill slub walls in this loud kinking room
that still echoes Fung blunger the swearwords Orh you Kongs
of men on relief for years, trapping ocean in oblongs,

and check out four hard roads tamed to a numinous
joke on it all, through being stood up side-on
and joined at their stone ends by bumper-smokers who could,
just by looking up, see out of relegation —

here the sky, the size of a mirror, the size of a fix
becomes imperative: I explode up through it beneath
a whole flowering height of villas and chlorine tiled pools
where some men still swear hard
to keep faith with their fathers the poor, obsolete and sacred.