The Backstroke

My specialty was the backstroke,
that perhaps because I associated it least with drowning,
my head above water the entire time.
I would never stand a chance to win
at the too complicated stroke and kick coordination of the butterfly,
or the too much water up the nose breaststroke,
hating clips and goggles and ear plugs too,
they all being too claustrophobic inducing just as
the too long between breaths of freestyle, the “Australian Crawl.”

I can still feel all the practice in my shoulders occasionally,
usually when I’ve done too much yard work,
the pain more than you’d expect from the task accomplished or from age.
That odd pinwheeling of the shoulders, pulling down backwards,
the feeling each time of an unnatural strain and click
of tendon and muscle turning, bone rotating oddly in its socket,
years of practice compounding, the relentlessly repetitive strain to be the fastest.

Yes, I was born to backstroke, witness my one blue ribbon event ever,
a single race only, my being best once.

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