• Print

Laps for Fat Wal

Whenever I swim on my back at the 14th St YMCA in NYC I think of Wallace Stevens:
a perfect square of heavenly glass dead centre in the centre of the ceiling
is a fatal, dominant thing. It is filled with leaves.
They crowd from their side like visitors at the wire
of the world, exhilarated to be almost X,

almost howling. Wallace Stevens wanted a pure pane of himself in every room.
It would free him to look out on horror weather
or snowy tumblers and just say that, just
get home before the wisecracks start. Strange
isn’t it, the parts of it we can lift, the parts not.

Lifting was “decreation” for him, he liked the word, he used Penelope’s web
as the very image of desire, unpicked every night. I wish
I didn’t know (what weavers know) you can’t unpick
a web like that, you’d have to shred the thread.
I’m lonely. I keep swimming.

A pool is a blue planet made of me and Wallace Stevens thinking
up ways to worship parts of it. What parts? Backstroke
depends on blind alignment to the instruction on the ceiling.
You can be a bit of a dandy with the wrist-action but mainly
it’s just driving on through old, bitter water till you hit the wall.
Then turn.