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My father whacked me with a piece of wood:
Five flashes of pain across my behind
As he hoisted me by the belt. My shirt
Was pocked with mulberry-stains where Ronnie Flood
Had pelted me all afternoon. I was almost seven.
I’d waited in a blank room in the house and pissed
My pants as he called me to the shed.
All week I hated him, remembering
His confusion as he tried to find
A length of pine to get it quickly done.

            If you count them right,
That’s more than thirty years ago. Tonight
I walk beside my father and prop his stick
On a rail as we both go down into the water.
One leg’s mostly metal, but in the pool
It floats as he swings up on his back,
Recalling the time he barrelled across
The estuary under the screaming of the gulls.

He looks up at the ceiling, smiles
As all the old heaviness drops away.
I walk him round while the weak arm from the stroke
Kneads the water like a feeding fish, and I say,
Put your head back, you’re doing fine.
The chlorine water slops about his ears
As the big clock on the wall
Measures out the seconds, watches us all.

I stand on toe-point as we both slide down
Into the darker water. It laps
My chin as I grip his belt and hold my father
Weightless on my finger-tips.