No 11 - May 2000
Swimmin' with Women
In the warm pool of a Y, I take my lessons...
strange medicine from women instructors
and fellow swimmers, all of them female too.
I’m the only guy - and of course I feel out of place
not only because until now I’ve been a land animal
but also because I was never one of those boys
who turned skipping ropes with the girls on playgrounds.
It is true that lately I have let women into my life,
but never surrounded myself so glaringly with foreign bodies
passing me up and down the lanes of the pool,
resting beside me at the ends, bumping into me skin against skin
as one of us does a back-stroke. Oh, they like me,
though first day one of the instructors told me flat out:
“Don’t you touch my ladies!” Was not kidding,
though there was no fear of that happening. Other than
the one young Amazon I happened to watch passing on her back,
nipples hard as rocks and an inch high, they’re all older
and I am no voyeur, just want to learn how to really swim.
All my life I swam head out of water, never knew how to breathe.
Here I am learning to blow bubbles and the physics of body
propulsion in water. I am learning limitations: cannot do the
stroke properly because I’m pigeon-toed and the kick requires
turned-out feet. Learning my back stroke is best, because I can
breathe face-up. All the things most guys learn as kids I am here
to catch up.
But the women - who knows? - probably harbour suspicions.
Some likely dream I am here to check out marbled thighs
and the allure of bathing caps and goggles. Others are friendly
and offer advice: slow down, bring your knees up, count to four.
They are calling me by name and demonstrating how they do it.
When I miss a day, they ask why. When I flounder
during some exercise, they laugh the way good-natured women
laugh at children stumbling to take first steps. I am their
I guess; most of them grandmothers, I am their latest grandchild!
This went on for months. Gradually, the baby boy outgrew them.
Now I am swifter, don’t gasp for breath at the ends, don’t
as much ... intent on exercise and perfection of technique. I am
becoming a water creature and I don’t think they like losing
their playful toad. Voices carry on water and I hear
complaints about sharing with sharks. Now there are no
lifted goggles, no open smiles, they are forcing me
out of the pool by hogging the lanes, cursing if bumped,
and the instructors let it happen. These lessons are not
just for women, but now that it is apparent I am more proficient
than fumbling, it is time for me to go …
swim with the men at regular hours,
see how I do among sharks in a feeding frenzy.
It is a little like leaving home.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The