thirsty for water

When I was young, I swam competitively, but gave it up after spinal surgery at age 12.  A long time out of the water would have meant a long time clawing my way back to form, and I really wasn’t passionate enough about it.  What I was ambivalent about, of course, was the training, not the water (or even the competition, to be honest).  The water was always a magical and transformative place, a place within this world that somehow also transcended it.  Swimming, I could leave my mundane and awkward embodiment behind, and completely enter into my body and its potential.

Last year, I went for a “Salamander” with artists and activists Petra Kuppers and Neil Marcus, in Berkeley California.  I wholeheartedly recommend you reading Petra’s book “The Scar of Visibility“, the book they wrote together “Cripple Poetics: A Love Story“, as well as taking what opportunity you can to see their performances and videos (maybe start here, with Neil’s brilliant “Disabled Country“).  Anyway, the Salamander.  They describe it best on the site dedicated to documenting some of the outcomes of this project.

Salamander is a community performance project. We use underwater photography, dry performance workshops, creative writing, clay work and video to go under, to find our disabled beauty emerging from the deep, the wild aesthetic of water, deforming ourselves through sleek unhinged control.
Since May 2013, disabled people and their allies from around the world have climbed into pools and oceans with us, and we float together, enjoying complicated freedom, companionship and adventure. And we give ourselves to the pressures the waters exert on us.
There is little instruction in Salamander swims: the water is the director, the choreographer, as we twist freely in gravity, trusting each other, exploring the integrity of our bodies. We also chat while we are in the water, and explore the easy flow of communication in the fluid medium of supportive water. The emphasis is on play and process.

andyswims

andy joel neil and petra

Here’s the poem I wrote soon after the swim (with a little re-writing, as I can’t help myself…!).

~

Salamander

Berkeley, California

with Petra Kuppers and Neil Marcus

Squint into this, I would have

said to myself, knowing the key

ingredients and their venom.

A public swimming pool.

A camera.  This body.  I don’t need

to spell it out.  Prose says it’s all there,

always fizzing in the marrow.

The enjambment between us proves

everything blue, all water.  This

is a series of dances

we invent as we go, each

the length of a full breath.

One body passes over me, another

winds around my torso, sinuous,

amphibious, tender, muscular,

substantial.  Deep animal

play, human mind turned

against itself and for the new human,

submerged in the way we move

together fluidly, or bump

against bone with apologies and

laughter, then dive down again

into the depths where thresholds

blur and the future

opens like lungs…

Clouds move in as I climb out

and become singular again,

rubbing the towel against my body,

but leaving a few drops behind.

I know two things –

it’s too cold to stay here all day

and the world is thirsty for water.

~

jan feb 2012 043

Life keeps hurtling forward.  Memories can feel distant.  But though we leave the water, we carry it always inside us.  I want to remember this.

~

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2 thoughts on “thirsty for water

  1. davey says:

    good one Andy. Loved it. the pool is the great parliament
    where everyone forgoes debate and dives into themselves.

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