Posted by: theonlycin | February 22, 2010

Circa 1980; A drowning at Bonza Bay beach.

We pulled into the parking lot at the beach

hotly excited to swim.

There: a flashing blue light played on tarmac,

a commotion,

a woman, limp on a stretcher;

bewildered children looking on; three.

We stood and watched,

a paramedic man at work;

he pumped at her chest, oh, he pumped at her chest!

From her neat navy swimsuit

a pale puckered nipple escaped,

and I was fit to die of shame.

He pumped at her chest, oh, he pumped at her chest!

And those children stood looking on

eyes beseeching him to be successful.

My mother; my taciturn, shy mother;

she walked to stand beside him and took his arms away.

Leave her be, she said, just leave her be now.



  1. This rather moving poem is a mixture of two styles: reportage and ballad.

    The reportage element is obvious. The incident is sketched in clear, straightforward language. It is immediately apparent what the poem is about and what happened.

    The ballad element emerges in lines like: “bewildered children looking on; three.”

    Also in the repetition of elements in lines like: “he pumped at her chest, oh, he pumped at her chest!”

    The drama and tragedy of the balladic style gives the poem tremendous emotional weight.

    This is a very interesting example of a classic style merging with a modern style in a poem.

    Can the poem be improved?

    The structure is fairly regular – long lines interspersed with shorter lines. And that is good. It helps to build the presence of the ballad element.

    One wonders, though, whether more could be done to enhance the style by firming up the metre into a definite pattern. Perhaps also making some use of a rhyming scheme.

    Overall a very satisfactory poem that can be superb if the poet can make a few delicate adjustments.

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