To break the ice on summer mornings
we ran, track-suited, clutching dew- damp towels,
jandals flopping,
up the road to the pool and,
stripped to togs and Olympic imaginations,
shouted encouragement and dived through the morning haze
into the water.

Robby, with his polio leg dragging on the poolside, urged us on
length after length seeking records in our efforts.
His representative dreams frustrated
and we, exuberant, tried to beat his stopwatch through its count
until, tired, we stopped and slid over the ropes
and gasped for breath.

Proving manhood we tied buckets to our feet and,
dragging them , swam ever-increasing distances,
Our shoulders taut, straining to keep our bodies straight,
our heads above the wash of flailing arms.

On Wednesdays we stood and waited in the cooling dusk
as parents, ever helpful, organised races,
took times, compared notes on those whose promise
could bring success
and comforted those for whom tearful defeat came wrapped in towels
and mothers' arms.

On moonlight Sunday mornings,
coming home from Saturday's dances and daring coffees,
we crept, with girlfriends and whispered caution,
through the hedge into the pool.

In the secure dark of the changing rooms we stripped,
hung our clothes on nails, and slipped out into the night.

Our bodies silvered in the water's luminescence
temptations of shadows and curves until curiosity
led us to touch, to stroke phosphorous from our hair
and, murmuring, sink beneath the water
to become explorers in another world.

Alan Papprill

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