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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 11, Number 3, September 2017

Amanda Bell
Dublin, Ireland

Striking out

Swimming out feels transgressive. It departs at a tangent from the edicts to stay within your depth, swim parallel to the shore, only swim on an incoming tide. It defies the ingrained need to touch down every now and then to test the depth. Once you’re out of your depth, depth ceases to matter. You are a cork bobbing on the surface. You can’t stop. You are literally swimming for your life, vulnerable to switching currents, rogue waves, trailing jellyfish, sudden cramps, reckless jet-skiers, effluent, seals which—in the water—loom colossal.

sudden swirl
what brushes my fingers
in dark water?

From the shore, the yellow buoys look small, and gay as bunting. Up close, they are large, grimy, and industrial. The ropes which anchor them to the seabed are slimy and barnacled. They do not invite touch.

black cormorants
drying on the rocks
their bright white guano

And what of those who choose to carry on? Not the Channel swimmers, coated in grease and accompanied by support craft, but those who keep on going until their last breath leaves and they transmute into flotsam. How does it go? Can you choose to breathe the sea? Or just keep swimming till the numbness spreads from each extremity up long bones to hips and shoulders, paralysing you, till finally your lungs, too, cease to function. There’s no one on the shoreline shouting stop; it’s too late to change your mind.

a passing ferry—
behind a swell
the horizon disappears



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