To Dave, 50

Recently you have taken to wild swimming.
In a medley of out-of-the-way river stretches
you pierce a film, re-enter a charged current
that slaps away a shroud of words. What freshness
is on that heron, in that willow. For at least
46 years you have argued with me, my son –
a matted forest of definitional tangle
has risen about us. But I have admired
the precision and the ease of your way with terms,
the exactitude of thought and the range of vision;
so once or twice you may have acknowledged me.
It is a journey of a deep-rooted difference.
You go your way. The sun is on your shoulder
as you thrust ahead into an all-free space,
by instants changing, of the untarnished new.
Deeply, and deeper still
you enter the tide of the world. For it can seem
there is no-one on Earth you cannot talk to;
there is no issue on Earth you cannot address;
and an anger at an unjust entitlement,
rich against poor, of an Earth-crippling power,
that damns to death the species, will not leave you.
But you scoot on,
in pool and lake re-discover a freshness
of being, seeing, knowing and going. Far back
from a hide of age I see you round the pier,
I see you dip into a cold-spring tarn,
or start to cross between two islands in summer.
Again and again with a leap, a driven thing,
you undertake the battle of the body,
and entertain a liberty of the mind.
My son, while the fad lasts (and may it be long),
tell me of it. For I see a small boy
charging ahead to a new climbing-frame,
or sitting for an hour in mute wonder
before a brass band in a park. I see
an older lad stay back without complaining
for a limping father to keep up with him
for all the second half of a five-day walk.
I see a philosophical zest emerge
in a student who won’t let a text defeat him.
I see a young man career round the country
in a van, the day after he passed the test,
to show his new employers he could drive,
and match himself against the roads of Britain.
And then the decades of the old and new.
You will never stop adventuring
my son, nor lack a sure touch of renewal,
nor will you ever lose your love of the world.
Swim on, swim out, swim far, swim free, return.

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