BARBARA LEE

 

The Big Swim

We hit the lake. My mother,
blubberous and white-haired, limped
down to shore; her first mark
flashed. She cut the wash: a sylph
with an expert slice of hand.

She taught me, this woman.
She taught me how to swim.


We paced the stroke, headed
for the buoy about halfway 'cross
the lake. We struck that heavy place
at about a mile. The place where your
muscles start feeling like cement.

She taught me, this woman, to find the place
beyond weightedness: that death by doubt.


I can see her lightness, the two hundred
pounds poised on a diving board -- the amazed
looks when she hit the board thunderous
and folded a perfect jackknife; clean
precise, dropped vertical with bones
lined up in complete ignorance of flesh.

She must be old; she must be heavier
than last year. She must be drowning.


At the buoy, we circle.
We are light; we could swim
the English Channel.

"Tired?" she asked.

She taught me, this woman.
She taught me how to swim.