Jane Symonds

wordsmith and mongrel

summer body

The week the air turns cold I go back
to the Piscine Jean Taris, to make slow laps and emerge,
light-headed with chlorine and adrenaline,
as Paris is applying her morning blush in the sky.

I had planned to swim my way, in the spring,
into a new summer body,
stripped lean and smooth by morning motion,
regimented into beauty,

Instead in the summer my body grew soft and slow, filled with
heavy cider and light tinto de verano,
with Basque pintxos and oily langos and blue cheese
scooped onto fresh bread beside the Seine

My summer body oozed over the edges of a new bikini while I
cartwheeled down the beach at Le Touquet, and jiggled
under my tutu as I ran a chatty lap of the Château de Versailles, and ached
after I salsa-stepped until 6am

My summer body grew sticky with other people’s sweat as we jostled
before television screens and over beer-stained bars, and then
when the final whistle blew
became a single heaving being of joy and song:
on est champions !

Toasted golden-brown by a gentler sun, my summer body
was coated in Hungarian dust and washed clean to the sounds of thunder
as I danced
fully clothed
like a robot from 1984

Coiled tight with stress, hunched crooked over a desk until 11pm,
then coaxed straight again by practised fingers,
my summer body was slipped back into a bandage dress and heels and taken out
to be admired

My summer body was anointed with the tears of a friend as she trembled
against my shoulder at sunset,
prying open old wounds to let in
salty air
and then racked with my own sobs when in turn she took me by the shoulders
high above the Atlantic on the Camino de Santiago, and yelled
come back
you’re here
they can’t hurt you now
and tried to shake out
20 years of fear

My winter body will swim a little more slowly because it will be
heavy with memories and
fat with lessons learned and it will not apologise
for taking up more space in the world
than it did before.

1 Comment

  1. This poem
    Our friendship
    It’s all perfect.

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