I was going to erase yesterday's effort but decided instead to let that rough attempt at a poem stand as evidence of the process. Here it is re-written as prose, and I think it works better. (My editor was right. Then she always is.)
Scanning the pool’s bottom I note the aging plaster in yellowish brown patterns like pee stains. Once at a YMCA I saw a turd on the bottom slowly dispersing. I like children but I canceled my membership because of memory.
Ropes held up by donut floats divide the lanes, each lane with a royal blue stripe down its center, six tiles wide.
How many strokes in a lap? So many variables. Counting, you risk a loss of rhythm. Arithmetic is not forgetting though it prunes language down.
Pearls of exhalation dribble from my mouth. What you inhale in a moment you blow out for three strokes. How can you take all that in with one gulp?
Poetry, how Jane Hirschfield’s three years at a Zen monastery might help silence the mind in the rhythm of the sickle of the harvest, in the planting of the rice shoots, calf deep in muddy water—in the employment of the definite article or in making tea: heat water add tea let steep pour ten spondees.
Thoughts come in words, words written in lipstick on the mind’s mirror where peace might have been. I want being without thought, only water sliding by (look—she swims well in the next lane, nice ass!)
See? Even distractions are verbalized. There is no woman, only these words. But you see her, don’t you, in the black one-piece with the open back, thighs tight and churning?
Words speak only of what’s already past, can never catch up with the next stroke, useless as bus exhaust, I might as well be fart-propelled. I want to be like those apes in 2001, pre-verbal. I envy brain-injured patients who can’t speak or think in words. Then whence epistemology? From a fucking stone? It’s just a word, who needs it?
Some part of me keeps track of every lap: lap 31, chant 31—and how’s my daughter doing, single mother and all, my brain directs my limbs without my thinking, three strokes: swoosh swoosh swoosh: gulp air: breathe out, strings of bubble bath pearls, arms heavy as pewter because lead is cliché and you think you’re a writer.
K-FUCK, my brain’s only station!—all that Sisyphean gossip, all that Herculean chatter and object-association nonsense, plums and apricots and women’s asses, pinking shears and postage stamp borders, how I hate leg irons and iron horses and Lou Gehrig and iron lungs beaten red on anvils like the color of lava expanding as the big island gets bigger with eels for Easter Island and Captain Cook stewed flight steward Hawaiian Airlines need new swim trunks still too fat what kind of salad afterwards maybe Jacuzzi wait for my heart rate to slow?
Perhaps a hemisphereectomy: remove half my brain and it won’t talk to itself so much, or at least a corpus callosotomy, mama disconnect the phone one mind one thought one bliss.
Finally (was it exhaustion that clued me?) how to turn it off:
Pretend you’re asleep. You dream of a body; it’s not your body. Someone else is swimming. You float in wordless sleep. If you start to wake, say only: “not my body, not my body.” Last lap.