Early Morning Swim by Hannah Lowe

Early Morning Swim

by Hannah Lowe

Early Morning Swim

I’m too early to swim so I kill time wandering
through Brixton, the moon still out
over Atlantic Road, Electric Avenue.
It’s quiet, perhaps it’s dangerous for a girl
to be walking at 6.30am but I know these streets
and in the strange December warmth, I raise
my hand to the halal men in their bloody robes,
already busy with their knives and bones
and bright chunks of meat. I should be in the water
but instead, I pass the shuttered shops and slats
usually stacked high with yam and bananas,
the red awnings of the Wing Tai Market
where you can buy five types of black bean
and watch a beautiful boy sluice fish guts
into plastic buckets. There’s a woman
stacking bread in the window of Greggs,
one in headphones sweeping the arcade,
another darts across my path on twitchy legs,
midriff exposed. She turns for a second
and meets my eye. I pass by The Havana Social
where a decade ago I danced all night
under wooden beams and drank bright pink
strawberry Daiquiris and shots of Sambuca.
Now ply-board seals the door and windows,
the name peeled to flecks of white. Daylight rises
on Electric Lane. By noon, the bearded man
in black tunic and knitted cap
will be frying lamb and onions in his van,
the Tunisians crowed at the pavement tables,
drinking coffee, rolling cigarettes. I should be
swimming but instead I’m watching
the huge Dragon Stout truck reverse down an alley,
its tarpaulin daubed in orange flames.
It leaves me where I’m standing at 7.03am
by the red brick of Brixton Rec. They’ve got
a thousand tons of water waiting in there,
up the stairs, through the rotating doors,
below the new neon sign.


Hannah Lowe came 3rd in the main category of the NCLA’s Water Poetry Competition 2012.

The NCLA Water Poetry Competition was judged by W.N. Herbert and John Burnside. The ceremony was held at Northern Stage on 23rd February 2012.

Photographs of the event can be viewed here.

NCLA Water Poetry Competition website.