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The Swimmer | Andy Kissane

After Jan Senbergs

It comes from an unknown place, this mystery,

and I let it come, my hand raised, colours mixed,

my brush intent on singing. Tonight, I sense

the whole painting before I begin—the gullies

and gutters of the endless sea, the dark waves

lifting along ridge lines, the way the distant

peaks look like snow-capped mountains

and the white foam mimics the mane

of a brindled mare bolting across the windswept tundra.

A man swims in the heaving sea. His arm leaves the water

and cuts through the icy air, his head rotates, his fingers

are splayed as they break the surface, then disappear.

There is no land in sight, the water is very cold

and no one on the boat, it seems, has spotted the swimmer.

It is merely an act of imagination, you are thinking

and you may be right, but still he is swimming—

arms fierce in their rhythm, feet kicking against

the current, shoulders rising and falling with the swell,

his skin slowly taking on the blue hue of the sea.

Meaning rises from the literal just as salt spray is flung up

from the lip of a wave. You might laugh at my hopeless

hope, this fascination I have with how we live through images.

Or you might grasp the purity of this moment—

when he opens his blessed mouth to breathe.

Andy Kissane has published a novel, a book of short stories, The Swarm, and four books of poetry. Radiance (Puncher & Wattmann, 2014) was shortlisted for the Victorian and Western Australian Premier’s Prizes and the Adelaide Festival Awards. A new collection of poetry, The Tomb of the Unknown Artist will be published in 2019.

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