The swimming pool
The sound of a provincial
swimming pool is syncopated
splashing. Names shouted, a holler
and the rocking ring of laps
a memory of bombs.
The pool was measured out in yards
as though you were in another
country and decade,
as in the movie you saw
between Christmas and New Year.
Sultanas eaten in the aisles
were planets; a full box, a universe.
Most of the day you’d lie
on warm concrete
beside the pool that was cold as needles
even in late summer
until you could almost smell your skin
burning in the unfiltered sun
then you’d run to the cool, and leap.
Those seconds between solid earth and transparent
water, you were ageless—a flash of stasis
in which you weren’t longing to grow up.
Cycling home, friends doing wheelies
before they peeled off, you doubled back
riding up and down the street
outside your ex-state house, reluctant
to go in for tea, to let the night
pile down and crush another day.
Finally, muscles aching, burnt,
you ate and watched the news
with the cat’s tail hanging
over the anchor’s face.
At school on Monday, rumours.
A man was found dead at the edge
of the field. The police quietly talking
to the principal. Teachers carrying screens out
to the courtyard, our drawings of the summer
holiday just past, lumpy families
around Christmas trees, a shark
at the New Year’s pool party, taken down
exposing grey felt, which the constable carried away.
From then on, when we ran circuits
of the field, we leapt over
that spot, as though something
might reach up to grab us.
It was the strange verge of childhood,
an age where will
Compliance was no questions,
drawing nice borders,
your exercise book
a formal garden.
You held your tongue,
promised yourself one day
you’d be skinless
and free of this town
the way you felt swimming
in the rain that hammered
when you put your head
above water to see
in the pitch of the sky.
Morgan Bach is from Wellington, though she is currently living in London. Her first book, Some of Us Eat the Seeds, was published by Victoria University Press in 2015. She co-edits the online journal Sweet Mammalian with poets Hannah Mettner and Sugar Magnolia Wilson.
Bach comments: ‘In the middle years of my childhood my mother and I upped sticks and moved to a small town called Te Kuiti. This poem draws on memories of that time, which are boring and nostalgic and sometimes a bit magic, like childhood itself.
‘For readers in the northern hemisphere I should note our summer holidays of course contained Christmas, after which they rolled on with a kind of incendiary boredom that I conversely hoped would never end, because in it you existed outside the rules.’