It’s a long time now since Mike Knapp told me how to pronounce pool, as in swimming pool, after the local fashion : pearl, he said. Just say pearl. I do, and it works, though it doesn’t change the blue of the water or the spangles of golden light that tremble along the bottom as I swim up and down, up and down, until I’m done. Sometimes when I’m at the pool I think Rome, sometimes Greece. There will always be Mediterraneans of one sort or another, from Spain or Egypt or the Levant; and you can’t help admiring the way they bring a grave politesse to bear among the legendary mateship of the Aussies. Perhaps I just mean good manners; yet sometimes the courtliness we practice when taking the water mutates into something rich and strange and then it is hard to resist the thought that we are really in Atlantis: the high stepped terraces painted aquamarine, the sea-wall where sculptured youths recline looking into the east, delicate girls prancing like sea horses at the excitement of the waves; while white birds mass on the rocks before flying suddenly up over the blue where triremes are moored awaiting their cargoes of—what? Not bales of cloth or stooks of wheat, not amphorae of oil or wine, neither gems or spices; just coal for burning in the furnaces of China. The Atlanteans are not really interested in global trade, only in more intimate exchanges: bodily fluids perhaps, or gambling tips; the almanac of tides; the joining of lip and mouth and tongue to the salt immensities. They teach their children how to dive; stand in a circle waist deep throwing a yellow ball each to each; swim elegant and sinuous as fish through the green water, remembering gills. And then it can seem, in the hard clear bright light that is also the light of antiquity, that they know only this : we are born, we live, we love, we die; and that is all.
pic : David Whitley