Tippy toe sprinting down hot brick steps, yelping
as gumnuts embed themselves – the bloody things
always waiting with pointed ends up like thumb tacks
to trip us, no matter how many times mum sweeps.
The obstacle course continues with the pool’s pebblecrete
rim, the enemy of skin, necessitating Dettol containers
nearly as large as the bulk-size chlorine buckets
we’re prone to prising open and jabbing with sticks.
You can hear the filter wheezing even from the kitchen
as the chk chk chk of the pool cleaner competes with the sound
of cicada tinnitus. It’s a two beer pool day, dad declares
before dropping his pager in. Not again, shit!
Our neighbour’s tree with its twitchy pipe cleaner branches
ensures the water’s never clear – one time,
over winter, a family of ducks took up residency
on its dark green surface, much to my mother’s chagrin.
But today it’s blue as it’ll ever be and dad is
wearing Speedos and easing himself into the Aqua Duck
with his beer, while me and my sister dare each other
to take a running jump and dive straight in.
Afraid of looking wussy, I suck in my breath
as if it might keep me airborne forever, then leap –
smacking the water like a stuntman bursting a fish tank
into a million little pieces. Then, the frenzied paddling
begins amid the garbled effervescence
until I surface like a dugong. Mmm, it’s so warm!
I lie to my sister once my body temperature has risen
above iceberg; lips blue, teeth chattering.
Before she’s time to answer, I pull my head
back underneath the water as pellets of air
like wobbly bullets stream from my nostrils towards
her warping image. It’s quiet and peaceful and queer.
For hours in the endless light of summer evenings
I would dive down deep as possible and stay there long
as possible, admiring the world through water. It was how
I preferred to experience life. Distorted. It still is.