The Age of Aquarius

She slumps in the disabled bay
clutching a waffle-cotton gown
around a spreading paunch,
shambling breasts.
Why not say ‘I’?
For that’s who sits at 6 a.m.
waiting for the health club
pool to open in the rain.
A grown woman, after all,
supposed to know her whereabouts.

Today’s my mother’s birthday,
a 1907 Aquarian of the self-
denying kind, ‘never say “I”‘ her motto.
She had me nailed for years. Her voice
drowns out the radio’s chattering static.
Now I’m the same age she was, dying,
observing noble savagery:

a gathering knot of skinny women,
tight black butts in leotards,
regulation sneakers, Brazil-waxed calves,
gripping i-pods, mobiles, water bottles.
The men stand back, silent, sullen,
balding, bored and out of it. Health stalkers,
renouncers of smoke and flame,
deniers of brimstone.
One hell of a century:
between the holocaust and the atom bomb
who are these people?

Between the deep and shallow end,
never say thank you or good morning.
Avoid eye contact.
Signals may be misinterpreted.
Slow Lane, Fast Lane, Walking Lane
Only’s where I’m at.
The moving parts count laps:
twenty five’s a half-hour’s worth.
I sing myself a rumba to keep rhythm;
the Speedo wall clock ticks a strict 4/4
defeats my ruse while dove’s feet skitter
arrow-wise across the perspex roof.

No Diving Running Eating Smiling
Share if lanes are busy.
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

The waiting crowd are all, like me,
up early talking or silent,
more vivacious than galahs,
more foolish than parrots.

We stand and wait, walk up and down
in the rain talking or not, holding
in sagging muscle, spreading paunch,
talking about things that must matter.
So much seems to hang on
getting in that door.

From Picnic, (Giramondo, 2006). Used with kind permission of the author and Giramondo, 2006

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