tompkins1
Laps
by Pat Tompkins

Always a shock to the system
from air to water, dry to wet
alteration, a transition
the body adjusts to change, yet

From air to water, dry to wet,
the plunge—a wake-up start
the body adjusts to change yet
again there’s a chill to the heart

The plunge is a wake-up start
adjustment takes a cold minute
again, there’s a chill to the heart
to beat, now you’re swimming in it

Adjustment takes, a cold minute
warmed and you’re moving with ease
to beat now, you’re swimming in it
back and forth, stroke, kick, and breathe

Warm and you’re moving with ease
racing the clock across the pool
back and forth, stroke, kick, and breathe
pivot and pull, a streamlined tool

Racing the clock across the pool
alteration and transition
pivot and pull, a streamlined tool
always, a shock to the system.

SOURCE: Originally published in The Vocabula Review, 2006.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This  is a photo of me as a bathing beauty age four and a half, c. 1958. I’m the tall one in the middle.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: A lifelong swimmer, I’ve been a year-round outdoor lap swimmer the past 25 years (much longer than I’ve been writing poems). “Laps” was my first published pantoum, a form I’ve since used in poems about a labyrinth, another about Laika (the first dog sent into space), and most recently a pantoum about a spider. All three won awards in contests. Sometimes the restrictions of a form can be useful.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pat Tompkins is an editor in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her poems have appeared in Haibun Today, Modern Haiku, Dwarf Stars, and other publications.