july 9/SWIM

3 loops
lake nokomis open swim
70 degrees

Windy, with lots of swells. Swimming towards the little beach, it was difficult to breathe on my right side. Then rounding the final orange buoy, it was difficult to breathe on my left side. For most of the return trip, all I could see was pale water — light yellow? brown? not blue. I always managed to see other swimmers before I got too close to them — a slash of yellow or red or pink. Didn’t see any silver flashes below, but saw one plane up above. The idea of trees everywhere, on the edges. A few menacing swans.

A good swim. No calf cramps. My left knee locked up a few times, but all I had to do to unlock it was a couple of frog kicks. Near the end of the second loop, my fingers were getting numb from the cold.

most memorable stretch of the swim

Rounding the far green buoy near the big beach, swimming parallel to the shore. Occasionally, the idea of ORANGE off in the distance (the first orange buoy marking the beginning of another loop). Swells from behind were pushing me along when I angled my body in just the right way. When the angle was off, it felt like the water was trying to suck me down — or, maybe it felt like the water fell away and there was no resistance for my hand to push through. So hard to stroke, to move. Flailing, but not in a frantic way. Suspended.

Anything else? No seagulls, no fish, no dragonflies, no sailboats getting too close to the course. No strange squeaks or screams or shouts. Sometimes I breathed every 5 or 3, but mostly I breathed every 4. 1 2 3 4 breathe right 1 2 3 4 breathe right

Carl Phillips

About this Poem

There’s the usual kind of swimming—as in, through water—and then there’s that swimming that the mind always seems to be doing, I find. This poem feels to me a bit like both things, the combination of thrill and fear when there’s finally no land in sight.”

about “Swimming” / Carl Phillips

Immersed. Overwhelmed. Experience an abundance or overabundance of.