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Daragh Byrne: a poem

Beach Scene

I chanced upon him on an empty beach:

his elbow bent, shading his eyes

as he stared out to sea, his back to me.

A puckish breeze disturbed the sand.

I traced his line of sight across the surf –

a woman flailing in a rip.

He didn't move. I couldn't take

the measure of her danger – she drowned, or swam

in full view of this stolid man.

Nor could I speak. A summer cold

had burrowed nose to throat, ruined my voice,

a splintered whisper left at best.

Would I have screamed? What sort of man

stands witness to a drowning? He might have let

me sink as well, should I have intervened.

He turned, as if to leave, then spotted me.

His face flared like a nova. Then it dimmed.

He beckoned me — hey, can you swim?

Daragh Byrnes is a Sydney-based Irish poet. In 2022 his work appeared in Poetry Wales, Southword, Crannóg, Skylight 47 and Abridged (amongst others). He also won third prize in the Poetry London competition and was shortlisted for the Val Vallis award (Australia). He runs the Sydney Poetry Lounge, a regular open-mic night.


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