Lake Swimming


I used to think I had influence. More recently
I’ve taken to swimming lengths at the council pool,
aligning my body with the dark blue tile line
and sticking with it. And now I’ve waded in
waist deep where there are no straight lines.
I’m imagining a swarm of dark-water creatures,
large with sting or barb. But there’s the island.
Judging by eye it seems close enough.
Lowering my head between linked arms,
I plunge, aiming myself at the faint outline   
of that small, encircled landmass,
overarming it out into the almost-dark
until my winter-weak muscles are quaking,
my lungs under load and heaving.
The upsides of lake swimming are
the sensation you’re ploughing
the thin, cool surface of the abyss,
that and the feeling of abandon.
These are also the downsides. The underwater
view at this point is clear and still, nothing but
beige sand. Of course, nothing is also
something. I’ve seen nothing yawn and stretch
into forever, nothing like before. Now
and then I lift my head to see, but in the end
I hear it first: the rhythmic slap
shhhhh of waves smacking shoreline.


Claire Orchard’s poetry has appeared in various journals including Landfall, Sport, Sweet Mammalian, Verge, The Rialto, The Interpreter’s House, Atlanta Review and Best New Zealand Poems. Her first collection of poetry, Cold Water Cure, was published by Victoria University Press in 2016.