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Wednesday, January 30, 2013


by Lex Runciman

George Reader, the dockmaster at Watchet marina in Somerset, who dived into freezing cold waters to rescue the baby boy after his buggy was blown in by strong winds. Photograph: Ryan Hooper/PA via The Guardian, Monday 28 January 2013

Wind blows a baby stroller right off the edge
and three feet down to water.  It sinks
as a woman shouts, as you jump in.
You do not stop to empty your pockets
or remove your shoes, only your coat.
You do not notice the water's temperature,
only that you cannot move as surely
or quickly as you wish.  The stroller
floats with a current, does not entirely
disappear.  At last you grab a handle,
kick and scull, pulling it, stroller and child,
to where someone else has let down
a rope, which you knot with fingers that
have thickened.  The stroller passes you
as they haul it up, and the child buckled in
looks slumped asleep, soaked.
You are cold now.  You have climbed out
and put on your coat
as a woman you have never seen
kneels, hair in her face as she works
and works, pumping that small chest,
until she stops, leans back a little,
the child moving an arm, the child crying,
water running down your face,
the mother who has had to watch this
sobbing, covering her mouth, and even now
a helicopter angles in against the wind,
with the wind, and the mother and the child
are taken inside and lifted away.
It is the purest thing you can remember doing,
and anyone would have – this bright gift
a privilege you'd wish on no one.

Lex Runciman’s most recent book, Starting from Anywhere, was published by Salmon Poetry (Ireland) in 2009.  A new book is forthcoming in 2014.   Runciman teaches at Linfield College.