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This report is taken from PN Review 130, Volume 26 Number 2, November - December 1999.

Ode to Somebody in the Pool (KSMA Keats-Shelley Prize, 1999: the Poetry Winner) Cate Parish

This poem won the poetry section of the KSMA Keats-Shelley Prize, 1999.

What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
We chase each other round and round the lane
but never close the gap, swimming at the same pace,
so though we're fast, and out of breath, we're static
relative to each other, as figures on a Grecian urn.
Mid-lane your torso, flank, calf slide past, cinematic,
and then the after-image of your liberated foot
flutter-kicking, sticks in my mind
the way a shard washed up from the Aegean
sticks in history. Another lap, and my brow moves
towards you like the crest of a wave
moving towards a shore, but doesn't break:
dolphins must make passes like this.
Once, our wrists smacked blindly above the surface.
But I don't want to touch you.
I like your face obscured. Beneath those goggles and bubbles
I'm free to see a marble face, eyelessly outstaring
the passage of time we metronomically keep
trying to escape with our bodies intact,
your fluid body poised as if in museum lights
above the dirty flow of aging flesh beneath
gaping like fish, lapping at your pedestal.
I'm lulled by the pace into feeling
we could spin around this watery orb forever;
but then you break our silent pact, by stopping at the wall.
I see a corruptible red ...


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