all poems and photographs
© by Maya Stein

all poems and photographs
© by Maya Stein
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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

learning to swim
























You do not plunge, head-first, into the deep end.
You do not attempt greatness with the butterfly,
the backstroke, the triple flip. You do not don
reflective goggles and racing stripes and 9% body fat.

You find the edges with your feet. You negotiate
the temperature. You graze the surface with your palms.
You slip just half of you under.
You sit. You wait. You don't take your eyes off your body.

You reacquaint yourself with your limbs, their stretch,
their buoyant angles. You marvel at the subsurface tricks
of gravity. You discover how articulate
the torso is, how centered and solid you are, even here.

And then, almost accidentally, a fiber of you begins
to dare. You find, one morning after waking,
you have dreamt about water, what it feels
to be looking out from underneath, the melty
psychedelic edges, but even more than this,
you have dreamt about submersion, your hair floating beside
your face, your feet kicking gently below, and
total, edgeless silence.

Now, of course, you find yourself more than often
flailing at the scene, imagining your own survival
rests on avoiding tiny, intractable upheavals.
And so, these slicing fists, these terrified
lungs, the machinations of a narrow escape.

Don't you know you can't really fall apart?
That you need neither grace nor power
to keep the water from pulling you under?
Don't you know you are always this close
to a waiting hand, to land, to the safe harbor
of your heart? Don't you know you already have
whatever you need for what you are about to do?

2 comments:

GailNHB said...

"Don't you know you can't really fall apart? That you need neither grace nor power to keep the water from pulling you under? Don't you know you are always this close to a waiting hand, to land, to the safe harbor of your heart? Don't you know you already have whatever you need for what you are about to do?"

If I knew all this, if I remembered all this, Maya, I wouldn't be nearly as reluctant to take chances, to write, to take photos, to live, love, and laugh with abandon as I feel so much of the time. What will it take until I do remember? Until I live out what I know to be true? Until I live my way into the answers, as Rilke advices?

Helen Suzanne said...

this is wonderful Maya. Thank you