Ann Keiffer

Swimming in the Waters of Life

For my neighbor, Eileen

if we have the
terrible good fortune
to be pierced
to the quick—
the dry crust, hard-nut
of the seeming self cracks open
and spills out
a new and thrilling rush
of our own fluidity,
the waters of Life.
The piercing seems the hard part
…but worse is believing
we are only the hard-nut.

My hip hobbles me,
gets progressively worse,
has me reaching for a cane.
I give up what are now
my daily neighborhood limps,
take the stairs slowly—
up-with-the good,
exhale my grimaces
getting up from a chair
or putting my legs to bed.
I wonder…what if this gets worse?

My neighbor, a retired chiropractor,
can’t help but have her healer’s eye
on my growing disability
and invites me,
ever so nudgingly,
to go with her to the pool
where she will show me
how to just hang in the water,
let gravity help release
my locked leg and hip.

Despite my July Cancerian birthday,
I am not a water baby,
never enjoy swimming,
get all the wet I need in the shower.
I know this slam-shut about myself.
But at my neighbor’s invitation
there is the first hint
of my crusted-over,
hard-nut self cracking:
I forget my beliefs and opinions
and go with her.

Down the wide steps
into the pool,
into the water…
ohhhh…oh, so…ohhhh
so surprisingly warm.
And I’m astonished
to feel this strange sense
of some dried-up sense of self
letting go, dissolving.
I am weightless,
the water laps around me,
gently rocking,
gliding, sliding
over my
So sighingly,
And I sigh, I sigh,
everything letting go.

Overhead, sky so blue,
brushstrokes of clouds,
breeze-waltzing trees
and bright-bloomed bushes,
birds sassing and darting.
I am doing what my friend
has shown me,
doing nothing,
just being,
just being in the water,
my legs dangling,
sometimes slowly riding
my imaginary watercycle,
pedaling round
slowly round
in restful motion.
And I sigh and I sigh,
without talking
without trying,
just allowing.

The water supports me…
And doesn’t Life support me?
An hour later I leave the water,
regaining my earth-weight.
My leg and hip improve
each time I return
to the welcoming water.
Over weeks I see
my aging-body is even
showing tan lines.
My body looks and feels
somehow younger.
And I rediscover sensuality
everywhere I turn. 

The hard-nut, my ossified self.
The piercing, my hip pain.
The fluidity, the waters of Life,
my letting go.

Ann Keiffer
August, 2022

Image: Digital collage by Ann Keiffer


About Ann

I am interested in the strange beauty of brokenness, in transforming possibility in difficult times, in how we heal even when we can’t get better, in the alchemy of surrender, in the interplay of light and shadow, in the bounty of everyday wonders, in the gift of laughter…and writing about it, all and everything.

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