Wild swimming

Illustration by Suzy Varty

 The swim in the Tyne is all mine, all mine,
 no-bodies bobbing about; my time.
 Between poppy-splashed fields of wheat, 
 ancient alders and elders meet,
 draping limbs soothe the surface
 creating a primitive place,
 still like a millpond, until I jump,
 gasping, shivering, goose bumps,
 for this is The North -
 Land of Norsemen and golden gorse.
 Warming the air between neoprene and skin. 
 I float. I used to fear water, but now I swim.
 On a flawless midsummer's eve, 
 I can hear the land breathe,
 sighing shadows holding high-arc'd hours,
 gloaming glistens; twilight empowers.
 The keen moon
 all too soon
 peers through noctilucent wisps.
 Below it dippers bounce, skim meniscus,
 bubbles trail from amphibious limbs, 
 streams of endless ripples wrinkle skin,
 dissolving parameters where surfaces blur,
 of aquatic apes, memories stir.
 An orange-blue flame lights my eye,
 peripheral bird, semi-spied.
 When suddenly, a silver gymnast bold
 spins mid-air, aims for gold.
 Ruddering my bread-brown arms 
 towards the riverside farm,
 the lazy current pulls upstream
 where midges dance in Brownian dreams,
 white-tipped martins and swallows twist, 
 dark scimitars swiftly slice the feeding mist.
 But dark clouds gather, so I swim for land
 Though my feet skim bedded sand.
 Rain tumbles, spilling from source, swelling surge.
 Hundreds of everlasting circles purge 
 in silent slaughter,
 they pimple the water
 like tiny glassblowers who try 
 lifting it to a mirrored sky.
 Battling the current to return
 I feel the tides of history turn,
 that carved this channel which did once feed
 the North Sea mouth and industrial greed.
 This Tyne holds back the might of Kielder; 
 to its reflective journey I have yielded.
 Red admirals waltz with ears of wheat,
 the sandy banks now coat my feet.
 And I wrap up warm, towelled, sanitised,
 In open water swimming I am baptised 

Suzanne Fairless-Aitken