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Carol Ann Duffy: a poem

The Dolphins

World is what you swim in, or dance, it is simple.

We are in our element but we are not free.

Outside this world you cannot breathe for long.

The other has my shape. The other's movement

forms my thoughts. And also mine. There is a man

and there are hoops. There is a constant flowing guilt.

We have found no truth in these waters,

no explanations tremble on our flesh.

We were blessed and now we are not blessed.

After travelling such space for days we began

to translate. It was the same space. It is

the same space always and above it is the man.

And now we are no longer blessed, for the world

will not deepen to dream in. The other knows

and out of love reflects me for myself.

We see our silver skin flash by like memory

of somewhere else. There is a coloured ball

we have to balance till the man has disappeared.

The moon has disappeared. We circle well-worn grooves

of water on a single note. Music of loss forever

from the other's heart which turns my own to stone.

There is a plastic toy. There is no hope. We sink

to the limits of this pool until the whistle blows.

There is a man and our mind knows we will die here.

This poem is from Standing Female Nude, published by Picador in 2016. Dame Carol Ann Duffy is a Scottish poet and playwright. She is a professor of contemporary poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University, and was appointed Poet Laureate in May 2009. Her term expired in 2019.


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