Swim Like You Mean It

This will be my second year in a row without the sea

Hideous, I swim
As silver hoops warp sunny wind into gales
Lulling me to sleep

My imaginary friend swirls in my stomach
And my nipples come out to say hello to the whole damn neighbourhood
I used to hold my breath underwater for so long that my head started pounding

But I felt safe in my chlorinated womb

I love how human blubber moves when kicking in a swimming pool
Creating beautiful waves in our flesh

My dad taught me to swim in Lanzarote
My mum told me recently that I could have come out of her pool a mutant
But instead
I arrived fat and juicy and ready to dive in

My fins have become prematurely arthritic and
There are cigarette butts stuck in my gills
I narrowly escaped that plastic 6-pack from strangling me

And yet

I still swim deeper than the vibrations of a humpback’s roar.

We can’t scream under water
So we may as well smile and let the air bubbles out slowly through our nostrils

A lovely grimace of survival

This poem was inspired by the above image, Mermaid, from the collection of the Bodleian Libraries of Oxford University. It is published by Visual Verse magazine: 

http://visualverse.org/submissions/swim-like-mean/ 

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