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The icy realisation
of my body and mind entering the water.
My chest tenses, staccato gasps.
Below, the click and rattle
of smoothened stones rolling
with each breaking wave.
Right arm over head
reach forward, pull back.
Left arm over head
reach forward, pull back.
Kick.
Repeat ad infinitum.

My breath syncopates
with the ocean.
As I descend, the light
dims, but glints from the teeth
of half-glimpsed sharks.
The mud oozes
between my toes.
Broken ribs protrude,
cracked hulls of
nightmare ships
that carried stained gold
and uncountable black souls
to their prolonged deaths.
Mingling with leviathan
bleached bones
slaughtered, boiled
rich fat sucked dry.
To oil the gears
of white progress.

I settle in the silt
to roil and mourn.
Barnacles fasten to my skin.
Seaweed wafts from my head,
salt crystalising in my beard.
My heart
contracts with the tides.


Tom Millner is a pathologist and poet from London, England. His poems can also be read in the Hippocrates Prize Anthology and Between the Lines.

© 2021, Tom Millner 

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