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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Special Australian Edition August 2023
The Swimmer, poems by Scott-Patrick Mitchell.
after Portrait of Unknown Swimmer
Within water, we become multiples: a body inside a body. Leave
your name on the shore. Swim and find new nomenclatures from
the oceanic turbine of the world’s churn: rip, spume, swell.
Transcend self and extend past your own skin. Stroke salt’s lung
as whale, dolphin, shark. There, on the horizon, a sun shall set,
sky shall bloom into dark expanse filled with constellations. You
can navigate by them, find new lands, new names to inhabit. Be a
buoy, floating. A light that blinks a path for liners to travel. Reduce
aqua to a rectangle stung with chlorine and summer shouts and
still you stroke aqueous tendons as you lap, Be named swimmer,
diver, lifeguard. All the ways water can reimagine us. Drown in
this multiplicity of being. When they take your photograph, for
memory’s sake, tell them you are anonymous, how you emerge
from the darkness, aquiline. A figure who will live on, known
only by the way you cut through the wet of this world.
The bruise in the side of the sky is the indent
in my bed. Your perfume warmth loosens
as the birds play their chorale out into blue.
You: absconder before daybreak.
Untangler of our puzzle limbs, stealing
self from out of weft and sweat.
This is what a key costs – knowing
you will use it to leave before I wake
and use my skin to convince you stay.
The sky is a bruise the whole day
you’re away. When night falls, the latch catches
as you return, starbright and hymnal.
Riddle in my sheets: where do you end
and where do I begin? Our lamplight
laughs throw light only as far as the other’s
lips. A flare in your eyes. Outside, the crickets
are a symphony we half-hear over ragged
breath. The way a paper moon is drawn by
the graphite these bodies smudge. Our teeth
tear dark prayer as we dilate our vision,
a fission of skin devouring skin: such fire
usually begins with lightning. But we’re
the only storm there is tonight. In the witching
hour, we spell each other with round mouth
vowels that howl in jasmine’s pale scent.
your bent knee, an archipelago.
We perform togetherness
by doing nothing, open
phones so data streams in.
Things that sync: a breath,
a heartbeat, two lovers.
Conversation catches tide in our chests.
We comment on the world beyond.
Through glass, current. Thumb
an anchor holding otherness in place.
Your hip, a cradle for my nape. Stomachs
churn with want. Cat enters, finds undertow
of warmth, an intersect, makes himself
a nest. Purr amplifies the absence
of any action other than rest. To say this
will last forever is a premature truth:
this poem isn’t written yet.
Last glimpse of day: blush on window,
curtain, paint. This no-place is liminal:
we slide intimacy into the schedule,
disrupt with goose bump skin, erupt
with laughter, spume. This belonging,
a horizon adrift in afternoon, lust.
Tempest fills the room.
Tomorrow, laundry licking the line.
But for now, a breeze, curled around us,
naps on our salt limbed skin,
© Scott-Patrick Mitchell
Scott-Patrick Mitchell is the author of the poetry collection Clean, which was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for Poetry and the WA Premier’s Book Awards Book of The Year. In 2022, Mitchell was the recipient of The Red Room Poetry Fellowship and The Westerly Mid-Career Fellowship.