by Elsie Hayward

A heartbeat before the cold hits
all breath is knocked away.

We clutch hands with white knuckles
and sharing strength
through intertwined fingers
we step from warm sand straight
into the icicle grasp
of a surreally blue unknown.

Today we are warriors.
We edge deeper
into the gently writhing pool
that fills the space
between jagged horizons, glittering
with a thousand light-forged sequins
picked out by rays of sun
that tint gold and warm
our bare backs like a soft presence pressing
against us.

The cold creeps further up
our tensing legs, it tightens its grasp.
We turn from the jaws of the beast
that slowly eats us up and wave
to the shore, dotted all over
with holiday colours and control
our blue lips long enough
to stutter a joke, to distract ourselves
from the tremble of our own bodies.

When each foaming crest forms
we grasp each other and feel
the sandpaper rash pricking
constellations across our shoulders.

We wade through the pain, smile still
as we throw back our heads
to a boundless blue dome ripped
with half-clouds. Between shivers
we gasp the breath to count down
then holding each other tightly, we sink
beneath the polished surface
giggle through the freezing punch.