Third Swim

MC Hyland

Here’s what I love
about swimming:
I return to it
every few years
but never do I
improve—not my
speed, not my form.
My last lesson
around age 14.
When I get better
it’s only endurance:
adding a few laps
to the routine or
getting strong enough
to do one more lap
of freestyle.
My swimming
is to me as
my father’s guitar
to him: a life at
more or less
the same level
of skill. In my
childhood home
he practiced in
the basement
with a glass
of sherry; now it’s
his office by
the front door
while local news
plays on mute.
Other things I do
often but don’t
care to improve:
make bread,
parallel park.
I’m a good-enough
mother to my hobbies
& daily routines.
Writing too I guess:
young, I edited
fiendishly for months
but now I strike
a word here &
there, maybe
move a line but
not much more.
Or revision is
so deep in process
I hardly notice:
I write these poems
by hand at Mean Cup
across the street
from the Y, type
them some days
later, tweaking
as I go. I wrote
in sentences,
stopping now &
then to gather
& arrange, rarely
I finished Eileen
Myles’ Skies
this morning, first
over toast & coffee,
then for the last
2 poems sprawled
on the couch.
They were often
in the skies
in those poems:
flying between
New York &
P-town & sometimes
the west coast
to meet lovers
& poets. The sky
right now’s more
white than gray,
a little crumpled
like a linen shirt
someone slept in.
At the start & end
of Skies a transcript
from a panel
on the topic
“Sky’s the Limit.”
The first speaker
plays a few verses
of “The Little White
Cloud That Cried”
by Johnnie Ray,
disgraced queer
pop star just
before Elvis.
The second talks
about a feeling:
“like a blowing
curtain”; the third
about space travel
& the Cape Canaveral
Museum, and so on;
the sky such a big
topic you can
approach it from
anywhere, really.
I think in your poems
water is like that:
substance through which
thought can languidly
move in any direction,
medium for making
—if not meaning—
at least form.

MC Hyland (she/they) is the author of THE END and Neveragainland, and the founding editor of DoubleCross Press. An Assistant Professor at Lebanon Valley College, MC lives in Lancaster, PA with her partner Jeff and a slowly growing collection of metal type and printing equipment.