Prompt: You are falling through the water until you touch the river bed. What is there?
There is a bike frame, on its side half buried in the ooze.
I have opened my eyes and the light from the surface makes the scene ripple. There are rocks and a fine layer of silt that my motion disturbs. It hangs like icing sugar in the water.
I know that I have to breathe, that I cannot stay down here for long, and the thought makes my chest ache.
Then there is the cold and a fear that hypothermia in water is a gentle death, but how does anyone really know? Can death ever be gentle? Perhaps some can. It would depend on how invested in this life you are.
I hit the river bed and push off towards the light. My clothes are heavy and my shoes feel as if they are made out of lead. The water is a set of currents I have to push through. I image the weave of the water holding me in place, at the bottom of the river.
I break the surface, gulp in air and wonder what has just happened?
The water is cold, flowing fast but the shore reachable, I think. I strike out for the boulders and the sand beyond. There is darkness under the trees. Silence save for the rushing water and my limbs slapping the surface.
Always the same and never the same twice.
I move through unique combinations. Split second relationships that tumble and roll over and are gone.
It is cold and the river shallows out enough to grab the rocks and drag myself on to the land. The sand clings to the wet cloth and my shoes hold more water than they ever kept out.
Where am I?
How did I arrive at this point?
I have no idea. Then a memory lazily moves through my mind. Trauma can make you forget. Some newspaper article about people unable to recall the moments before the crash. They remember getting into the car but nothing after that.
I do not even have that much. I can remember the water, the dappling light, the bicycle frame under the velvet silt. An urge to breathe and kicking for the world of air.
How did I get here?
Where is here?
Why that solitary bike frame in this wilderness?
I stand on the bank and think I need to take off my clothes and air dry my skin.
The sun is past its zenith.
as I slept
I lived underwater
not an uncommon dream
no longer pinned by gravity
but cast free like a bird in the sky
experiences the ease of flight
I swam through REM and
awoke with the sun
my body strangely weighted
beached in tangled sheets
This prompt was more difficult. I felt I was going off on a tangent.
Initially I let the words write themselves. I thought I could pick words/lines out of the paragraphs and make a poem but I was uneasy with the idea. I was focussed on the water, on what happens after I see a bike on the river bed. Part of me wanted a logical story, something that hits the ground running and is relentless. I cannot write like that.
I let the words unwind until they ran out. Then I closed the computer down and thought tomorrow will offer another avenue.
What was at the back of my mind was that I did not want to generate a list poem. They are overdone and just not me. There can be a grandeur to repetition but generally I don’t think they work.
As I cooked the evening meal the idea of breathing underwater popped into my head. I think it came from a Murray Head song from the 1980s, but I’ve just spent half an hour trawling through lyrics on line and I cannot find it. I’m sure it’s on Restless…
There was also another lyric from the same album about Venice and the sea coming up through holes in the square after midnight…
Terrible stuff really but you had to be there to enjoy it.
Anyway the idea of breathing underwater was zipping round my head.
This morning as I did Tai Chi it started to come together. Four rewrites later I had a poem. It was not the prompt you had given but I think it works.
Though I am left with the question why I could not look at the riverbed? The bike could have been the start of something urban but for some reason I spliced it with a river in the wilderness. I was thinking the Pacific north west, Oregon or somewhere like that.
It could have as easily been Widnes or Birdgwater and a bike would have fitted the location. I once saw a number of bikes in the silt by Bridgwater library when the river was low. It was as if this was the place where you slung your stolen bike into the river. A gift for a Celtic deity, long forgotten but with still enough clout to demand obeisance once in a while. Perhaps it was the tears of the bikes owners that were the real offering? The Celtic gods demanded much, especially as the Romans rampaged the country. Take the Lindow Man for example.
Would we have been better off without Christianity? If we had stayed with our Northern Gods and the Saxon Wyrd? I suspect so. But that is not the point of the prompt…