I’m Irish, we keep our clothes on
most of the time. We perform
contorted dances on beaches in Cork,
or Donegal; undressing under
not-yet-wet-towels. Worried that any gap
might expose us, lay some body-part bare.
It was the Immaculate Conception that did it,
if Mary could conceive a child without
removing her knickers, then by God
us could undress and swim
without baring our buttocks.
We swam serene in freezing seas,
goose bumps freckling our pale skin.
We lay togged out on wet sand desperate
for the weak sun to dry us, before performing
the contorted dance in reverse. Now as I
remove my clothes, peel them off
layer by layer down to the bare,
a brief moment of unease before the release
of water baptising skin. With a quiet ‘Jesus, Mary’,
I dive in.
(previously published in Merman, Salmon Publishing 2012 and The Windharp Ed. Niall MacMonagle, Penguin 2015)
Jean O’Brien‘s fifth collection is New & Selected Poems: Fish on a Bicycle, Salmon 2016. She has won the Arvon International Poetry Award and the Fish Poetry award as well as being placed in many other competitions, most recently her work was Highly Commended in the Forward Prize (2014). She holds an M.Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin and tutors in CW.