At the end of the field lay the baths,
where, in summer, the water lay
still - black-green
with lime and floating weed
dark under the macrocarpas.
And we learnt, with varying success,
to swim.
A crude dog paddle and then,
to add panic to the teacher's day,
seal-like, stomachs scraping concrete,
hidden by black water,
to surface anywhere within the pool.

Here we watched our bodies change,
swapped stories of rumoured conquests
and, daring each to giggled courage,
crept through the hedge,
to press eyes against nail-holes
and spy on others standing, naked,
in the cool shadows of the changing rooms.

Older, we lay along the banks,
exchanged yarns and learnt of Raymond.
The first - to fall in love, to ask a girl out,
to be rejected...
and, disconsolate, write his will-
leaving all to the nameless girl,
and dive, completing a triple somersault,
from the Memorial Tower
to smash bloodily
to the concrete 100 feet below.
Spurred by secondhand excitement
we climbed, as he had climbed, laughing,
to the top of the high diving board,
no memorial this, and in safe emulation leapt,
in spinning, twisting somersaults,
high out over the blackgreen water
to throw waves across the pool
as we crashed, jarring our backs,
into the dark unknown.

Alan Papprill

Back to Durie Hill Poems Index