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The Resolutionists
 
By mistake I go swimming the first week in January.
Slipping in beside the regulars, marooned in the shallows,
we float, exchange capitulatory nods and acknowledge
that we won't be swimming much today
or for the next few weeks because the pool is filled
with the chaos of New Year's resolutionists.
The dumpy, flabby, love-handled ungainliness
of the hopelessly unfit enthusiastically striving
for the unobtainable, instant sleekness.
 
Non-swimmers are splashing, frantically doggy-paddling,
disregarding the length lanes to swim widths,
unable to see because they don't have goggles,
colliding catastrophically with the backstrokers
then surfacing like fountains with flushing pink faces
after, hilariously, trying to breathe underwater.
 
Much worse than those are they who
years ago used to swim and dive with prowess
but haven't seen water since and yet insist
that ten or twenty years makes no difference.
And so we see them, these lucky ones,
triple-back flipping off top with aplomb,
sprinting up the pool like Olympic Tarzans,
not realising the cost of their over exertions,
tomorrow's seized muscles, the inability to get out of bed
or the ambulance trip to hospital for emergency traction.
 
And then consider the unlucky ones
who without a moment's reprieve and reminded
half a length down the pool by breathlessness,
cramps, heart attacks or just plain drowning.
Their awkward bodies cast up poolside
and, embarrassingly, through coughs and vomit, revived,
ringing in their ears the news,
"You're alive, but just a bit too old!"
 
Up the deep end at the macho springboards
the incomplete somersault's smacked back of the skull
or the man sprawled in a stupor, having mis-bounced
and gone head first into the tiles. He missed the water!
And, from the roof high, top board, the glorious bellyfloppers
are stinging themselves scarlet with a smashing slap.
 
The next to worst of all these is the man
who plummeted into the lane divider
and neatly garrotted himself on the wire
between the sharp plastic floats.
 
The very worst, we all agree, is the poor sod
who jumped off top to hit one foot either side
of the lane divider's plastic teeth and wire.
Unlike the garrotted man he was alive to suffer.
Bright purple in his agony, hands clamps on genitals,
rigidly foetal, almost unbearable to look at
as he was dragged out and put on the stretcher
sideways because he wouldn't go flat.
 
Ever alert to the danger surrounding us
we regulars swim slowly through the carnage
carefully avoiding collisions or even contact
like ghosts in an aquatic movie by Hieronymus Bosch.
 
Back at the shallow end's comparative safety
we guestimate that by February this will be over
when the resolutionists, who do it to get healthy,
in the hope of living longer, have all inflicted
injuries or done permanent damage or just died.
Few survive as swimmers. One may become a regular,
although this is extremely rare, but until then
the ambulances are lined up outside like fire engines.

 

 

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