Cutting Water by Emily Pritchard

By Emily Mercer on March 4, 2021 in

My father chose the flattest stones, 

skimming them out to sea, 

and taught me never 

to walk on a beach 

without filling my pockets 

with pebbles. When was it 

that he learnt to skim?

And who taught him? 

I know small things 

about that boy. 

How he’d sit tensed 

with terror when the bus 

crossed the Menai bridge 

to school, how he wore shorts 

when no one else did. 

If I could, I’d stop 

my tiny father’s ears, 

stopper his father’s bottle, 

erase those years 

of drink. Like a stone 

flung from some Welsh cliff 

fifty years ago, 

my father’s fear leaps 

across decades, touches 

the surface then rises again, 

skimming, skipping 

through all our lives. 

We’re on a beach again. 

My white-haired father, quiet 

careful man, bends down to sift 

the stones and find the ones 

that skim. He’s got the knack, 

the flick of wrist 

that spins stones out. 

My father’s learnt 

to let himself be loved, and loves, 

and speaks of it. Call it 

cutting water, throwing plates, 

the way a dragonfly 

crosses a pool: he skims 

the stone and it travels so far 

that if the sea were not the sea, 

it would have reached the other side. 

Emily Pritchard lives in Edinburgh. They have poems in Abridged, Blackbox Manifold, and Magma, and recently completed their MA dissertation on butch poetics. Find them on Twitter @poetrypritch.