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MARGARET BRADSTOCK

Morning, Clovelly Beach


Lap after lap, time descending
   into the sea’s chamber,
      the cryptogam-covered steps.

On the white concrete plateau, sunbathers
      are already stretched out
like slabs of meat for the barbie,
basting and turning themselves,
      skin like crumpled leather.
That hole in the ozone layer
won’t spoil their day.

Tourists are sculling, sculling
      against a gun-metal sea
out beyond Caddy’s Steps,
listening for the shark plane
or snorkelling in search of
      the Big Blue Groper,
cries of discovery mimicking

another babel tower.
Someone throws chips
into the bin, and seagulls
      go into attack mode
in a scene from The Birds.
Somewhere an airborne
beach-umbrella takes off

like cosmic dust, spiralling
      into the blue nowhere.
Keep your eye on that spike.

You’ve come at the right time, he says,
tide going out, no bluebottles,
      a beautiful temperature.

Except for the sea-lice, that is,
homing in like kamikaze pilots,
mistaking your floating body
for seaweed, or a marine smorgasbord.

Don’t worry,
you won’t feel a thing
      until later.