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It’s scary to think about what your body is going to look like in forty years
At the swimming pool, I am an honorary old person—I get to swim with the senior citizens, who play volleyball in the shallow end and use the deep end for water exercise. Only a few people do the exercises, and they move over to let me swim, and I also try to do some of the exercises, though when I go underwater to check out what my legs are doing, I find they’re merely dangling like the cartoon swimmerets of a brine shrimp.
What does this have to do with poetry? The other day…
the teacher Ellen, a local artist, told our group of four women, much to my dismay: “Lucia is a poet.” This always embarrasses me, for reasons that would require another entry, and to justify myself, to prove myself more than a slacker, I said: “Ellen, I’m also a blogger now!”
Old people are not supposed to understand computers, but the women asked: who are you blogging for? And I said, oh the foundation that’s associated with Poetry magazine…figuring no one would know or care about Poetry. But people, whom I often take a dim view of, being slightly agoraphobic, always surprise me. Adrian (she’s holding the ball in this picture, another local artist) said, “I subscribe to Poetry.” She got the free issues they were offering during poetry month and made her book group read them. Though they groaned at first, the group was taken by Forrest Gander’s translation (from Spanish) of Coral Bracho’s poem ““Firefly Under the Tongue” (this was last year), a poem Adrian read to me over the phone and which I’d describe as sensual and densely metaphoric.
My point is, a poet thinks what she does has not many reverberations in the larger world, and yet here in the swimming pool the water rippled with something that happened (contrary to Auden) as a result of it. I always think of poetry as being akin to building ships in bottles, an archaic art in which an eccentric subculture participates. But now several members of the Adrian’s group, made up of female professionals aged late-thirties to mid-sixties, regularly bring poems in.
Though at first I felt estranged from (let’s face it: scared of) my swimming partners, I’ve come to treasure being part of the group and making friends across a wide swath of life. The lifeguards sometimes play big band music, which annoys me because most of these people came of age with the early Beatles and Stones.
What I like best is the chance to see bodies. The girls on the synchronized swimming team are in the locker room when we leave, and though they are beautiful their bodies are not as compelling as old bodies, on which you can read the story of childbirth and illness and simply age, which lends interesting variegations and falling-(or-not-)ness to the flesh.
It seems to me that “old person” is the ultimate Other. Old person=not me.