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Kelp

At the bathhouse in Enniscrone

by Nessa O'Mahony


Gasping I take the first step,
hesitant before the green
I must immerse in,
toeing my way through fronds
as I settle in deeper, feeling
the fringes insinuate, caress

me till I respond, lowering
myself further, weaving
a seaweed skin around
arms and legs, between,
inhaling the salty breath,
then tonguing it in.

Lying back, I drift
to the last time,
the final family holiday
before we gave up
togetherness
and picnics on the beach.

It rained two days in every three
of that grey fortnight,
filling the old Austin
with a fog of mutiny,
steamed up windows
keeping the scenery out.

Back to the bar of the hotel,
to the thrill of oven chips
and ketchup in metal bowls
and all the fanta orange
we could drink until our blood froze
with the first drone of the accordion.

And the adults perking up,
pushing us onto the floor,
"Go on there, strut your stuff,
show them what jackeens can do,"
our limbs petrified with shyness
jerking us towards the door.

But there could be no escape
from the spotty boys cross the hall
who dragged us round the room
to the "Walls of Limerick"
till we were redder than the velvet
curtains keeping the starlight in.

The baths weren't open then.
We found our seaweed on the strand,
kicked it idly on the sea’s edge,
watched its oil bubble on the sand. .

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