23 November 2011

A Woman in Goggles Mimics My Movements

The title of this blog spot is taken from a poem I wrote after a visit to the local swimming pool where, in the shallow end, I did a bit of front crawl, water treading and (extremely average) breast stroke. A woman in thick goggles and swimming cap stared.

“How do you do that?” she asked.

And I thought, how long have you got?  How long have I got?   I can’t just impart in five minutes something it’s taken me a lifetime to learn.

Yet I have come to realise two important things since I wrote that poem:

1.              I too am a woman in goggles – impatiently expecting others to use shortcuts to pour their knowledge into me, rather than facing up to the necessary commitment.

2.              Being asked to function as teacher is an honour not to be discarded lightly.

Mimicking the movement of others in the shallow end can be a useful starting point.  Getting to the deep end on your own is another matter.

This is the poem:

A Woman in Goggles Mimics My Movements

She’s at my heels, demanding that I do it again
only this time making it slower and more obvious,
as if my actions can be cornered and boxed
as a gift set that’s hers for the taking

without negotiation, without attorneys present
baying in Chicago accents about piracy,
blood money, copyright, patents,
royalties, trademarks, syndication deals.

And though the act of imitation may be small beer
in the drive to be someone else,
like battling into jeans tailored for other hips
or fantasising audiences by singing into a banana,

I would rather she did not plagiarise my steps,
gloss over the ten years to perfect a pirouette,
the sixteen to cartwheel out of danger,
the twenty-seven to handspring across the floodplains,

and I would rather that she, if hell-bent on copying,
were a smidgeon more frisky, a touch less bulb-eyed
than this frayed, itinerant soul – my doppelganger
come to repossess me, so long after nightfall.

© Katie Griffiths

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