from Every Five Strokes
A Five-Canto Poem
The time of memory drips from the foot
in regular circles of water and chlorine
Ute reopens the space of history.
Tired, at the edge of the pool, she recalls those
who showed her the way,
the escape route from poverty, yelling all together,
in a burst of joy, “pushing with our arms
we will tear down this titanic cage!”
They shouted loudly at the red spray
on the primordial bricks of the highest wall;
she, still a child, burdened herself with that yell
and chose to take on the hardest task:
“I’ll save these voices from the stench of piss – I can! –
I’ll take them with me to a place that is free and safe,
I’ll make their body out of my own,
I’ll make their flight out of my gestures!”
Free from the bias of those who are in the wrong
she now swims in the blue water of the pool,
transparent to herself, in her sharp-edged strokes
on the surface that shines like hoarfrost,
she listens to the splashes of the water she cuts
and measures the rhythm of life on her temple.
No defeat now, no victory, her life story, she decides,
will be measured in hundredths of a second.
Ute knows she is the best and keeps training,
without pause, three hours in the morning and three
at night, her body grows, adapting to the strain,
and each day the shape that was slight and bony
under the pale blond of sorrow changes.
What doesn’t disappear from under her eyes
is the look of a girl who burns slowly when alone
and watches others who chat and do not train.
Ute is strict with those who stay on dry land
and don’t understand the need for a flipper hand,
of those who seize the water’s resistance beneath their chests,
she is strict with herself and thus she strives
against the unmoving randomness of her land.
She feels alien but decisive against the masses who threaten her.
Ute is the blue proof of a pledge,
the liquid crystal body of a champion.