life on land was hard for me; my mother committed suicide when i was very young.
there were some troubled years, but let’s just skip to the good part,
a long summer with my maternal grandparents at Lake of the Ozarks,
a beckoning body of water i always loved to be in; there I found healing.
i was seven when a lifeguard neighbor taught me to swim.
i looked into the reflected sky and the long limbs of shoreline trees,
brilliant diamonds of reflected sunlight so intense you had to squint to see.
upon this shimmering surface i was taught to lie back and trust, to breathe fully
and deeply and to lie stretched out arms open to the clouds above, head back and at rest.
there i floated, completely serene, basking beneath the glorious sun,
knowing now that water would always hold me, becoming in that moment transformed.
i could stroke, frog kick, glide easily on that rippling body. each day i grew to love it more.
now i wished to merge with it, and over the summer swam stronger and further every day,
ducked beneath the water alongside the dock and pushed off my slender body stretched
to offer no resistance long gliding kicks and breast strokes the breath held until stars appeared
so badly did i wish to remain submerged. at night i would dream that when my air ran out
and water rushed into my mouth, gills began lazily pulsing along my neck,
pulling oxygen from the water; i swam into deep illumined caverns where treasures lay.
later there were long Olympic pools filled with crystalline water the languid slap slap against sides
and towering into the sky a three-meter board where i learned to fly and arrow through the water in a plunge
straight to the drain grill sixteen feet below no splash on the water above and then the nights spent
in mental practice for a back layout to get good height yet distance from the board to fall back toward it
at last willing to make the attempt and feel the welcome pain of just a back slap, knowing the head
had easily cleared; now just several hundred repetitions, committing to body memory, and finally slicing again to the bottom without a splash,
this clear accepting water where i was embraced and shown without words
how our earth mother can impart with tender grace
ways of being beyond the limits of fear,
far beyond the mirage of boundaries rippling between two worlds
©John Greenleaf-Maple 5/1/17