A Tay swimmer selects a navigator by Beth McDonough

You might very well veer towards
lean, handsome lads, all matching
shorts and deck shoes. Their long
limbs have pulled
a tiller or two, and tilted
in plenty of yachts. Or those friendly-
faced girls who have paddled canoes
right the way round
St Kilda. Any one would be swell, but

I put my trust in grizzled old salts,
diesel stink bright on their oilskins,
faces the leather of torn, battered shoes. Their hands
gnarl those fenders like branches. I’ll take
old men who exhale the Tay’s brine,
and maybe a whisky or two. I need
a sailor, pipe clamped between snaggle-dark
teeth, one who peers out from cowries,
rough sunk into wrinkles,
with barnacles chewing his beard.

He’ll know which side I’ll breathe on.

Beth McDonough finds poems whilst swimming in lochs and rivers, foraging and riddling with Anglo Saxons. Often writing of a maternal experience of disability, she was Writer in Residence at Dundee Contemporary Arts 2014-16. ‘Handfast,’ her poetry duet pamphlet (with Ruth Aylett) was published in May 2016.


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