Swimming Backstroke

Gerald Stern

BPR 45 | 2018

Sometimes the clouds open up and
we get a brief glimpse of something
that belies our ordinary vegetative life,
the way good Anaxagorus might have put it,
he who spoke mostly in metaphor
for what else can you do in Asia Minor?

And since I was a walker who went
from town to town inside what they called a city
through tunnels over bridges and even up and down
steep hillsides either on wooden steps or
over slopes and in thin woods
where there was no sense in building houses

which in some cases, would have to be at a severe
angle or upside-down, your living room rug slipping
down over your ankles, the Pope’s picture askew on its nail,
the teeth of the president sort of biting his nail,
the bed and the dresser heaped up in a corner

the thunder jar rolling over, piss everywhere,
a disaster for Anaxagorus though he was
used to being upside-down and
climbing hills and swimming backstroke
even with the water entering his nose,
starting an underground school where he and

his disciples solved the riddle as I did
pushing cushions against the wall for the long-legged
young and feeding them pickles for our
bible reading and egg salad for our flag salute
though it was generally too cloudy for foresight,
especially at 9:30 AM Eastern Standard Time Extremus.