Tag Archives: swimming

Circling Fly


Ode To The Book

When I close a book
I open life.
I hear
faltering cries
among harbors.
Copper ingots
slide down sand-pits
to Tocopilla.
Night time.
Among the islands
our ocean
throbs with fish,
touches the feet, the thighs,
the chalk ribs
of my country.
The whole of night
clings to its shores, by dawn
it wakes up singing
as if it had excited a guitar.

The ocean’s surge is calling.
The wind
calls me
and Rodriguez calls,
and Jose Antonio–
I got a telegram
from the “Mine” Union
and the one I love
(whose name I won’t let out)
expects me in Bucalemu.

No book has been able
to wrap me in paper,
to fill me up
with typography,
with heavenly imprints
or was ever able
to bind my eyes,
I come out of books to people orchards
with the hoarse family of my song,
to work the burning metals
or to eat smoked beef
by mountain firesides.
I love adventurous
books of forest or snow,
depth or sky
but hate
the spider book
in which thought
has laid poisonous wires
to trap the juvenile
and circling fly.
Book, let me go.
I won’t go clothed
in volumes,
I don’t come out
of collected works,
my poems
have not eaten poems–
they devour
exciting happenings,
feed on rough weather,
and dig their food
out of earth and men.
I’m on my way
with dust in my shoes
free of mythology:
send books back to their shelves,
I’m going down into the streets.
I learned about life
from life itself,
love I learned in a single kiss
and could teach no one anything
except that I have lived
with something in common among men,
when fighting with them,
when saying all their say in my song.

– Pablo Neruda

All That’s Buoyant

And she was unperturbed. She was cold. How did it happen, that something no longer mattered, that it had been judged inessential?
James Salter, All That Is (220)


All That Is by James Salter concerns the adult life of Philip Bowman. His life, not so much as a search for love but more a drifting, swelling,  rip tide, crashing into or reeling from love. All other mundane details of his life, while interesting, are decorative but not essential. Love is water- it’s just the profound weight of it all: the liquidity of love, slipping through your fingers, keeping you afloat, or dashing your heart against the rocky shore, the weight of the water is always there.

“People deceive you,” she said softly.
“Yes.” (120)

Sometimes you get caught up in a book, in a story, and it feels like a dream, every pore gets immersed in a world of the other. It’s like the writer creates an ocean, and you swim out to meet the surf. For some books you swim further in than others, and you can never know, just by looking, how far your own stroke takes you and how much the tide of the story is taking you as it would take anyone.

He was not depressed, but was living with the feeling of injustice. (187)

It’s not accidental that I saw myself under water, then swimming at a quick clip, then gasping for breath, as I read the story. Salter begins and returns to the ocean again and again throughout the book. Everything begins in the water.

The other day I swam out to the middle of a lake. There was no one else around. I swam straight out to the middle, I love placing myself in the center of a large expanse of water with the blue sky above…it’s not easy to float in fresh water, but floating may be one of my favorite things to do so I am well practiced. Without the salt’s assistance, I had to arch my head all the way back and let my feet dangle straight down, toes pointing towards the deep. My arms stretched away to let my chest rise, keeping me afloat. The water made a tight circle around my face, and I bobbed there in a sacrificial pose for some lovely minutes. That moment of staying perfectly still in the water, surrendering to the water, breathing, breathing, so as to not disturb anything was exactly how All That Is left me.

She wanted to talk. There were some things she wanted to say, but she did not. She sat silent. (284)

Becalmed, I suppose. The reading. The floating. The heartbreak. It’s a state in which the danger of sinking is avoided, and yet- it’s always there. Under the pull of the weight, heavy and lugubrious, is something mournful, mesmerizing yet out of reach. The water is invigorating and essential. It is also dark, deep and mysterious. And still, we float, seems we shouldn’t, but we do. Salter’s prose quietly touches on, and moves through, all of these elements- some lovely minutes is all that is.

Swimming Still (The Tao of Augustus)

woven paint by Augustus Accardi (age 9)


“I can swim – I just don’t move anywhere!”

“I know the feeling Augie,”  I answer him laughing. It’s not the same as treading water. Not at all.