Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Steve Whitaker
Literary Editor
12:00 AM 15th June 2024

Poem Of The Week: After The Dive By Isobel Dixon

After the Dive

to the icy green pool
with the river’s rocks
like ancient submerged
vertebrae and knucklebones,
lie on your back
and look at the sky.
It’s not just contrails
and the clouds
against the blue,
a lone up-current swift,
a wafting spore –
you can see the breeze,
the breath of the air
stirring in wisps.
The veil of the day
and you beneath it
as the slow heat of the earth
holds and underlines
your shoulder blades.

Nothing happens in Isobel Dixon’s exquisite contemplation, save for the Niagara of grace yielded by the bounty of the water, the gnarled bone structure of the ‘river’s rocks’ and the sky turning in the swimmer’s upturned gaze. Nothing need happen because the snared moment is its own eloquent reward.

Obliged to somnolence in the upswell of overwhelming peace, the narrator’s spare lines proceed with languid humility. And beyond the exigencies of physics – the moving clouds actuated by the breeze – is a psychological leap, a sense of the intangible witnessed visibly, as if the breath of the wind were the breathing of a body, or the ‘vertebrae and knucklebones’ of the submerged rocks were the skeletal architecture of a sleeping giant.

The narrator, who is the swimmer in the second-person, is addressing the extraordinary in the ordinary. And as the earth warms, turning the icy water to balm, the moment is transfigured, made sacred in the reckless heresy of nature.

‘After the Dive’ is taken from A Whistling of Birds, published by Nine Arches Press (2023), and is reproduced here with the kind permission of publisher and author.

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