Mélisande Fitzsimons: Eau

What is the air like after a swim/ as the air floats, the supporting body of water as a person/ like ripples changing/holds up in the shadows/ in real life, a pool is a very large mirror/ a flame between us, an emphasis to write lasts/ there is strength in letters, trust aligns the words between us

April lives up to its name, rhapsodic and ardent/ birds have an ability to sense the earth’s magnetic field/ the doves intone Smells like Teen Spirit/ every time I put the washing out/ I am sure of that/who came first: Kurt Cobain or the pigeons?

In the search between shoals and wave crests/ a strong current snakes off/takes words to the Breakwater and makes the swimmers sing/ unspoken under the surface, light removes/ time from the body/ the story condenses into matter: what kind of fish did I turn into exactly?

Laura keeps her head down/ polishes and cleans the metal bars around the pool/ the mats the shower heads the taps/ her glasses misted with steam/ it’s so good to see naked, loud bodies in the changing rooms

With little change, swimming becomes a ritual form/I flow west like a swan/ my thoughts barely hold/I add a mile/ water is worth loving in its simplicity/ I’m continuous in my laps, strokes/ movement is created and almost missed/ my long breath, longing for warmth and conversation/ our bodies are ageless in water/endless in the dark

Dave was proper aggressive, I thought I was clear/on the intercom, he gave me attitude/ the women bring their legs closer together/next thing I know I was asleep on the settee/like mummified bodies/with butterflies tattooed on the ankles/I had to walk back from Mutley on my own/couldn’t get a taxi/Jason was smashed

Adrift underwater, lungs ready to burst/ I breathe out and fully in/my skin is scaly with chlorine/ but I haven’t grown fins yet/depth delights me/ look at me look at me/ the devils with pitchforks and bat wings won’t take me to the bottom of the sea

If you shook me gently, you would hear a small ball ping around in my chest/under this water trouble/ which is not troubled water but the liquid rock of bliss/I follow the lateral line/ and make pointless calculations in the margins/water follows its own law, the limits of the concrete poem/ I am bored of the alphabet/ I swim to nowhere and repeat/bored of distant views I won’t see/bored of listening to marathon boasts

Everything in the sauna is unpredictable/a man with a cane and a stepson/with stage four lung cancer/shares his uncertain diagnosis with me/I still smell mineral after showering/ we were meant to listen in the dark, in the dry heat/in this small space of trust

There is no space in water we can’t cut a line through/ I drain my lines ABC/ which disease starts with Q/which plant with Q&W/in what ambiguous language formed in dreams/ fish and fowl/the whirr of water is my memory, my moments/I let my mind work in swarms/ in a strange relationship with language/ I unfold mercifully to no music/and feel things in water that can’t be put into words

Free hands and open space/ half in, half out/I flip against the side, with no loss of skin, no ache/ a small space bears, aligned with my hip/ deep as a quarry, the work begins again/the noise doesn’t stop: I don’t use it for anything else




Mélisande Fitzsimons: I am a French poet and translator and have lived in England for 20 years. My work has recently been published in Tears in the Fence, Quartet Journal, and The Fortnightly Review. I write poetry in French and English, which is both challenging and exciting. I published A Language of Spies, my first collection in English, in 2019. My second book, Life Here is Full of Tomorrows, was published by Leafe Press in 2021. My third collection, The Only Country in the World, will shortly be published by Aquifer.


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