Four Poems

August Kleinzahler

The Swimmer

For Brighde

The japonica and laurels tremble
as the wind picks up
out the west-facing wall of the old natatorium,
made wholly of glass.
The swimmer takes her laps,
steady and sure through a blur of turquoise
and importunings of chlorine.
The large room itself now darkens,
lit as it is by natural light,
as the storm clouds press closer toward land.

Back and forth, the solitary swimmer,
now on her second mile,
is caught up, held almost,
in that one element she finds her ease;
and in moving through it
the very edges of her strength are engaged,
until, on a turn, her breathing stretched,
health pours into her.

The great glass wall, first pilloried by drops,
their dull, pellet-like clack,
is now streaming with rain:
and from this hill,
where, half-hidden, the old rec centre sits,
across the sixty rolling blocks to the sea,
all that is material and solid,
the houses, the cars, the trees,
diminish into shadow
and continue to recede till there is nothing,
nothing at all in the world,
but water.

Balling at 50

You are lovely and I am not,
But glad
         Of Nature’s Grace
That we Two should Together make
        Full Chimp, Toto’s Lair,
        Jallalaphontina’s Caper

        In this the Total World
With its Rhumblines of Electron Spoor
          Above the Steeples
     And Limewash and Courses
             Of Brick
         Spalled or Repointed

         Thronged Escalators
        Great Vats of Honey

         Remind, pray, tell
How thus the Streaming Familiar
    Is made to transfigure
Magick’d in the Candle’s Glow
    From Meat to Spirit
    And back once more

     With Singing Jolts
     And good Result
     Sans undo Care
    Such Swyvving rare
    This grand Plaisance
        In Dalliance
So strong, so strange, so well
       Fair star, do tell

Rx for S.

Nap. Go looking for the fox
in Holland Park at dusk. And if you see him,
and he sees you, well then.
Smoke even more ganj, and at hours
you’re unaccustomed. Nothing
must be allowed to interfere
with this, your willed indolence.
Set forth among your dreams as a traveller
in a distant rain forest, awonder
at the hibiscus-like carnivorous blooms
spangling the tendrils and moss.
They nor the sleek ebony jrdaka
will bite, nor even give affront
because you are swaddled in a cloud,
a molecular raiment of scent
by which they will know you.
The world is full, full of care,
grief but another tortured littoral,
hostage to the sea and rough weather.
Decamp to the sheltered valleys.
You will find comfort there, and safety,
and, for no reason, remember a coloured plate
belonging to a favoured storybook
your father would read to you
when you were only a very small girl.
Sleep.

On Waking in a Room and Not Knowing where One Is

There is a bureau and there is a wall
and no one is beside you.
Beyond the curtains only silence,
broken now and again by a car or truck.
And if you are very still
an occasional drip from the faucet.
Such are the room’s acoustics
it is difficult to place exactly where from.
Also, the tick of the clock.
It is very dark.
There exist all manner of blacks,
lamp-black, for instance,
much favoured by the ancients,
so deep and dense
and free of any shades of grey
or brown. But this,
this dark is of another order,
compounded of innumerable shadows,
a weave of them.
One is able to make out shapes.
It is not restful, to be like this, here,
nor is it a fearful place.
In a moment or two you will know
exactly where you are,
on which side the door,
your wallet, your shoes,
and what today you’ll have to do.

Cities each have a kind of light,
a colour even,
or set of undertones
determined by the river or hills
as well as by the stone
of their countless buildings.
I cannot yet recall what city this is I’m in.
It must be close to dawn.