The Sunday Poem: Don McIver... Swimming in Samsara

Do your plans for this new year include more exercise...maybe more time in the gym or laps in the pool?  Or does exercise bring up thoughts of monotonous hours that seem to drag on forever?  Fortunately for us, Don McIver has thought it through.  And by the way, wikipedia says "samsara" means "to flow on", to perpetually wander, to pass through states of existence.

Albuquerque poet Don McIver is one of the foremost figures in both spoken performances and the written word.

Swimming in Samsāra

There's a ghost in the natatorium.

I see him when I'm coasting before I tap the wall

and then turn around.


I never mastered the kick-turn

and see no reason to start now

as the ghost keeps pace.


In the blue light of my swimming goggles,

I imagine that it uses its legs a bit more and swings its waist,

so that its left arm doesn't overstretch for its counterstroke.


Surely the ghost doesn't take a breath with every stroke,

and never loses count of how many laps it's done.


Yet, it never passes me, never seems anything but focused.

I swim in this monotony,

this simple increased heart rate,  moving muscles plunge.


Does it too have a roving, yet discrete lecherous eye and tries to check out every woman:  

college freshmen to veteran faculty who stop and catch their breath before getting out?


No.  I like to think that the ghost is focused, putting all its will into shedding pounds,

toning upper body muscles, and now I've forgotten what lap I'm on

and spend a half-a-lap trying to convince myself one way or another.


Counting laps is tedious, much like meditating,

only the stretch between one meditative breath and another is 50 meters.

And the ghost is matching me stroke for stroke.

--Don McIver

Poetry submissions are welcome.  Email

Views: 160

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on January 1, 2012 at 4:10pm

from one lap swimmer to another, very nice, don--lovin it --  I just do 30 mins and that way do not have to count  gotta run

Comment by Margaret Randall on January 1, 2012 at 4:30pm

I love this poem, Don! It reminds me ghosts accompany us in all our daily activities.

Comment by cc on January 2, 2012 at 9:49am

and the breath, the breath. Swimming dreaming - love this poem, Don! So glad you choose to share your vision.

Comment by Dee Cohen on January 3, 2012 at 5:46am

Hi Don, At the Highland Pool, we have to pay extra for ghosts. And then they hog the lanes. You've captured the Zen of lap swimming. And all those doppelgangers in life -both good and bad. Thanks for a healthy new year's start. Dee

Comment by Rich Boucher on January 3, 2012 at 8:08am

Excellent work, Don.


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