The Swimmer’s Moment

Margaret Avison

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For everyone

The swimmer’s moment at the whirlpool comes,

But many at that moment will not say

‘This is the whirlpool, then.’

By their refusal they are saved

From the black pit, and also from contesting

The deadly rapids, and emerging in

The mysterious, and more ample, further waters.

And so their bland-blank faces turn and turn

Pale and forever on the rim of suction

They will not recognize.

Of those who dare the knowledge

Many are whirled into the ominous centre

That, gaping vertical, seals up

For them an eternal boon of privacy,

So that we turn away from their defeat

With a despair, not for their deaths, but for

Ourselves, who cannot penetrate their secret

Nor even guess at the anonymous breadth

Where one or two have won:

(The silver reaches of the estuary).

Reprinted from Always Now (in three volumes) by Margaret Avison by permission of the Porcupine’s Quill. Copyright © The Estate of Margaret Avison (2003).