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Sport 43: 2015

John McAuliffe — Lifeguard

page 56

John McAuliffe


Hours before you wake to my call,
I walked out of the modular hotel,
where not a soul could say
where anybody was and the 11th floor bar,
strip-lit and echoey, was closed.

Restless, numb, underwater
after the flight, I kept going, out and up,
via a superette to buy toothpaste,
the towers and highways a pre-dawn
dot to dot I walked into, till I saw the sun

rising over a coastal lido, its salt water
sprayed by a pulverising southerly.
Even at this hour, there’s a lifeguard.
In shades, shorts and a black scarf, he has a couple
of little gulls, plus me, for company,

and the city below climbing thinly to his blue reprieve
from where the sea looks endless,
map-flat and patient as it slowly presses
into the built-up valleys, neglecting nothing,
a pylon in the shallows making waves

of daybreak. Though I can’t, it turns out,
live everywhere, the light from the south
is an open door. I try it on (try harder!),
the gulls flying up out of the thought
I go away to hear you say my name.