Barry Island

Not really an island, for a long time now,
which just goes to show, things arenít set in stone
and moated; just step on and off it,
no waiting around for a tide to turn.
Butlinís gone, that end of season air,
that pervasive unmendedness quite repaired.

There was all the space in the world
this morning, and the sea seemed glad
of our company; a little shy and nervous
at first, now it bounds up the sand
to lay siege to the yellow bouncy castle,
the multi-coloured beach huts.
Look how weíre filling up!
Look how many Muslims
and how their black clothing absorbs
the sun and darkens the beach.
It wasnít like this yesterday.
This must be how they spend Saturdays,
not shopping, boozing, watching football.
They canít all be Gavin and Stacey fans.

Some of the mothers enter the sea
right up to their hijabs; a woman hidden
in a niqab points a camera at others;
that seems perverse and underhand,
not quite playing the white man.
I must remind myself of Bali, of the Maldives,
where milky skins affront the natives
in their naked desire to change colour.

The sea pushes on, the sand grows smaller,
the crowd larger, pressed closer together.
We lose sight of our youngest daughter
and pace back and forth, along the shore frantic
for 5, 10 minutes thinking the worst,
recalling the stuff printed in tabloids
about young Asians and wishing we hadnít.
Then her fear-filled face emerges,
uncertain if sheís for a sermon or blessing.
God knows, itís easy to lose your bearings
on beaches when everyone looks the same.

We left earlier than weíd intended to.
Culture-shock, Iíll call it, weight of numbers,
a reluctance to wait for the tide to turn.
The kids wouldíve stayed there all day, of course,
which can only bode well for the future.

Raymond Miller

If you have any comments on this poem, Raymond Miller would be pleased to hear from you.