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Posts Tagged ‘swimming’

Swimming to the Island

 

 

 

I didn’t intend to swim to the island.

Told myself it was just a quick slip

into the water. Told myself I would

rejoin the others soon. But the water

said yes to me. And my arms and legs

seemed to remember then

exactly what they were made for.

Sometimes we’re in service to something

more primal, a voice that says go, go,

keep going, though there’s no race,

no finish line, no prize, no spectators,

nothing but the thrill of becoming

the body’s bright verb. Feel how

the water buoys you, even as your weight

pulls you down, how it shimmers as far as

a woman can swim, how with each

stroke of your dripping arms,

the lake christens you again and again

a child of this very here.

 

 

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After all, she is going on a cruise

and booked in the Presidential Suite.

Let her daughter laugh.

What does it matter she’s over seventy?

Harriet fingers the thin strips

of nylon, lets them fall like slippery dreams

through her hands, dreams she can catch,

dreams in her reach, dreams she

will share when she’s ready,

and world, she’s just about ready.

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At the Pond

 

 

 

It’s no Walden, but it’s cool

and the day is dust hot,

and so I ask my younger self

if she wants to go swimming,

and she grabs the hand of my older self,

and drags her to the pond.

My older self was, perhaps,

more rhetorical than sincere

when she suggested the swim,

but the younger self has already

kicked off her shoes and shrugged

out of her dress. The swallows

wheel and sweep overhead

and all along the pond’s edge

the dragonflies darn through the reeds.

What is it in us that never forgets

how to jump in, no matter

how cold, no matter who’s watching,

no matter what else

we’re supposed to do?

That is the part that is already wet

and otter slick as the older part of me

stands at the edge, still dressed,

in awe of that girl, how she

glitters in the sun, how

through chattering teeth,

she laughs, how she looks

so almost familiar.

 

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The girl with her goggles on pouts when the waves end.

You didn’t stay with me, she says. She holds on to my arm,

as we bob in the clear blue water of the pool. You stay with me,

she says. All around us, the high sun of summer makes

everything gleam. We splash and bob until the bell sounds,

and a collective squeal erupts from the crowded pool.

I stay as I have been told. The waves begin, small at first,

and the girl hangs on. And then the man-made surf

thrashes at our bodies, tugs at our suits. I do not

remember her letting go. I remember watching her head

disappear beneath the wave and her smile as she

emerged on the other side before she dove into the next swell.

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It turns out it’s just made up, the word sonder.

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows says it’s a noun

that means, “the realization that each random passerby is living

a life as vivid and complex as your own … an epic story

that continues invisibly around you like an anthill

sprawling deep underground.” But it’s not made up,

the realization, as I noticed today at the pool in downtown Chicago.

I swim in a lane with an older man and a young obese woman.

For them, I will most likely always be nothing more

than an extra who showed up on the first clear summer day

after a week of rain, the woman in the black bikini and purple

goggles who shared their wide swim lane. The sun wove its light

through the chlorinated water as we swam back and forth,

back and forth. I would not have noticed them all, except

that there they were in my way and in my lane, though

I regarded them not only with small frustration but also

with growing curiosity. Who were they? What flavor

of ice cream did they like? Who had broken their hearts

and what were they sure they would never tell anyone else?

Were their closets clean or chaotic with hats and scarves spilling

out of uncloseable drawers? Did their mothers love them

or tell them they were worthless? Did they know how to fence? Or weld?

Had they ever been to France? Could they speak another language or sing?

I lived a life with them then, there in our lane where we never

spoke a word, our arms pulling us all in the same direction, toward an end

from which we always returned, though later not one of us would remember

who we shared that hour with, nor would we recall

how the sun shone so brightly, as if it were only for us.

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Lap Lane

After the long limping spring

comes this clear June day

with its sun and its blue and

its outdoor pool. I slip into cool water

and instantly the gimpy foot turns to fin

and my legs move like nimble legs again.

The pool bottom sparkles and glitters

with noon beaming down in white

fractalled light, and I’m lissome

and lithe and slick and alive

with the pure sparkling yes of it,

drawing warm air into my chest

in huge lungfulls. For a moment,

I do not think in terms of damaged

or whole, I do not think of

this morning’s brokenness,

I do not think at all—

I am kick and stroke and pull

and sun-spangled shine, wild

in love with the dazzle,

the buoyant world that rises

in us, sometimes when

we least believe it can.

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If one windy day
you find yourself
beside the pool
with your three-
year-old girl,
resist the urge
to stay dry. She
will laugh at the way
you pull her through
the blue chlorinated
water with such real
joy that it will catch
in you so wholly that even
strangers in the grass
watching you play
will comment to you
on how sweet that you,
like your daughter,
delight in being wet. Someday
you will forget the chill—
the body cannot
pull the back the memory
of cold anymore than it
can bring back the red
pain of labor.
But her smile, the memory
of that as it flashes
above the refracting light,
it will forever bring a smile
to your lips, a real smile,
no matter how
tired you are,
how old and dry.

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floating face up
in the black water
aswirl in the milky way—
with so small a breath
the body rises

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