Monthly Archives: March 2017

learning to swim

These past few months I have been attending weekly swimming lessons. It’s an adult class, full of panicked folk eager to combat their fears and teach their bodies skills that most people raised in Australia take for granted. When I started I couldn’t swim a single lap, hated putting my head in the water and would pull up short of the deep end every time I struck out for the far end of the pool.

I’m a determined soul. I pushed past the feelings of imminent drowning and now swim several laps in a row and tread for many minutes at a time. I happily swim along with each of my sons in turn, while the other does his own lesson. I resent it when work or other commitments come between me and my opportunities to get in the pool. The calm meditative nature and attention to breathing is all very soothing really, once you get used to it.

Years ago I was given the label of cyclothymia – cyclical variations in mood, a bit like having bipolar disorder, only milder (and apparently unrelated). I used only to recognise the down swings and be fearful of them. The times when I felt really well and productive went unnoticed – or perhaps were not freely expressed during my previous relationship and periods of very intense work. I was frightened of these moods and what they might mean for my health. I’ve been working at managing them for many years, gaining skills to cope but powerless to alter the biological ebb and flow.

Now that I’ve learned to swim, I can bob on top of the moody ocean, rather than be crushed on the rocks on the foreshore.

learning to swim

in deep water waves reach
incredible height
giant continuous sinusoids
smooth peaks and deep broad troughs
over which a swimmer
might bob oblivious
to the forces shaping
her gently exhilarating ride

as the waves approach the shallows
they grow taller still
towering steep and jagged
the sea bed drags at their base
tops racing away in chaos
their arcs crumble to mayhem
swimmer tossed breathless and gasping
lucky if she arrives battered on the shore

I’ve been learning to swim these ocean moods
finding courage to brave deep water
yet all this time
it was the shallows I should have feared

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carbon dioxide

Happy writing doesn’t come naturally to me. I worry about sounding trite or, worse, soppy. These past few months have been the happiest I can remember, so I haven’t much felt like writing.

Last year I wrote my first love poem – for my beloved’s birthday. I was 45. It didn’t completely suck. He has a copy on the wall by his bed, so I guess he must like it, or at the very least like that it was written.

Yesterday I ventured out to a poetry gig. Later, we saw Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Paterson’ together, in which Paterson the bus driver writes poems deeply entrenched in ordinary wonder. The film is a calm mindful view of what might be considered mundane until transformed by the poetic lens. Unlike the two women seated next to us who talked and looked at their phone screens throughout, we were quite captivated. Hands clasped across the restaurant table we discussed the film and the kangaroo gargoyles on the building opposite. Perhaps it was the film that triggered an especially mindful moment this morning and the subsequent urge to write it.

carbon dioxide

face sleep slack
your lips whistle slightly
with each exhalation
your right cheek
rests on the pillow of my left elbow
our noses close enough
for the hairs you won’t let me pluck
to tickle

my right arm drapes
across the soft pelt of your back
fingers seeking the smooth valley
of your spine
I enjoy the play of texture
squash my breasts against your chest
rest my right knee
on your thigh

though your breaths are quicker
than mine
I synchronise my intake
with each lip whistle
brave those ticklish hairs
breathe in your waste breath
so that I might merge further
with you

in my slack muscle trance
lost in the detail
of the lines round your eyes
each fingertip on my skin
my idling mind wonders
if your excess carbon dioxide
is responsible for the giddiness
of love

(PS My beloved is cool with me sharing.)