'Swimming Pool' by John Kinsella | States of Poetry WA - Series Two

for Lorraine and Tony

Not an expression of wealth but one of quiet desperation,
the heat and dry eviscerating hope – a giant shadehouse
of green cloth, and an above-ground keyhole
swimming pool, with avocadoes and ferns edging
the cement slabs, aura in the midday twilight.

And the red dust, too fine to shut out, decorating
the aqua-emerald waters, a wound open from an attack
of the inland leviathan, invisible as the filter strains
to remove impurities, leave pure as chlorinated amniotics,
and the dry birds squawking to be let in – shriek-caw-shriek.

Inland pool that was no waterhole, gnamma parody
down from the salmon gums and wandoos and pepper trees,
looking out over the sheep paddocks, the pig yards,
down onto the rat-tunnelled horse dam, out beyond the white-
walled house-dam of fated sailings, edge of the earth.

And this was in the Seventies, long before the rise
of pools on cocky properties, a nod towards a strong
swimmer, towards a childhood visiting the coast, a father
who loved the ocean. But there was a mother too, one
of the goldfields women who never learnt to swim.

Wheatbelt swimmers, wheatbelt pathfinders,
wheatbelt paradoxes carted in on the truck in riveted
steel cubes, brimming from standpipe flow; and then lesser
but regular cartings for ‘topping-up’. Record the volume,
pay up later. And all those kids travelling from far

afield, travelling to take a dip, frolic beneath the shadecloth
cathedral, bathe in the gothic font of swimming pool –
Australian crawl, breaststroke, frog-kick where the sun
denies the existence of amphibians, and dirt looks past
the sky for an opening through which rain might fall.

John Kinsella

John Kinsella

John Kinsella

John Kinsella is the author of over forty books. His most recent publications include the novel Lucida Intervalla (UWA Publishing 2018), Open Door (UWA Publishing, 2018); On the Outskirts (UQP, 2017), and Drowning in Wheat: Selected poems (Picador, 2016). His poetry collections have won a variety of awards, including the Prime Minister's Literary Award for Poetry and the Christopher Brennan Award for Poetry. His volumes of stories include In the Shade of the Shady Tree (Ohio University Press, 2012), Crow’s Breath (Transit Lounge, 2015), and Old Growth (Transit Lounge, 2017). His volumes of criticism include Activist Poetics: Anarchy in the Avon Valley (Liverpool University Press, 2010) and Polysituatedness (Manchester University Press, 2017). He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and Professor of Literature and Environment at Curtin University. With Tracy Ryan he is the co-editor of The Fremantle Press Anthology of The Western Australian Poetry (2017). He lives with his family in the Western Australian wheatbelt.