When You Have No Power You Go Swimming in the Dark

This line has been going through my head all week.  It’s been a mantra.  Over and over it plays, demanding to be taken places from innocence to tragic. 

It’s the creative process.  A word, a phrase, a sentence can all mean different things to different people and at different times.  If you let a thing, have more than one meaning or project more than one image, that thing can become bigger than it was before.

In every day life there are things that can be expressed as a poem – that strange language that compresses words, creates images, and builds feelings.  Not all poems have to be about the great truths of the world – sometimes the great is in the mundane.  In skilled hands a flower or a child running through the grass, can impart more truth than all the words of all the philosophers who’ve ever lived.

The title above was actually a Facebook post and I’m stealing it.  It was posted by a friend who’s power went out on a hot night and the whole family just went swimming in their pool.  A simple scene.  The power fails, the A/C stops, the house heats while mom, dad and the kids don swimsuits to jump into the cool water in the family pool.  When the power returns, suits are hung, bodies dried, A/C restored and it’s bed time for a happy modern suburban American family.

There’s a poem in there about the joys of family life – about turning discomfort into fun – about adapting and coping.

Knowing the family involved, I envision this scene and feeling, without having been there.

When you have no power you go swimming in the dark

Let’s set reality free and image other situations. 

Perhaps a single mother has lost her job.  She can’t find another and the unemployment checks run out. She receives the eviction notice on her small apartment and just before moving to live in her car, she takes her children swimming one last time …

Or perhaps in the dark we spy two young lovers camped by a remote lake.  In the heat of the evening, a touch, a kiss, clothes drop, bodies swim, love, lust — all swirl as the grasshoppers sing …

Or a man is in a car desperately driving and looking for a way out of town.  Smoke chokes the sky as the flames start to rush past as his town of Paradise is consumed in flame.  When the road becomes blocked and his car starts to burn he runs for the small creek and the little water there that might protect him …

Or it’s a war and the teenage girl has made it as far as the river.  On the other side, the hope – the possibility of refugee camp and being out of range of the guns – out of the hands of the enemy and certain rape.  Bombs, fire, and gas have killed her family.  Mother and father dying to get her away. Crouched on the river bank she has no weapons, no friends, no safety and little strength left.  As the sun goes down she slips into the water hoping to either reach safety or drown.

In the many poems and stories that could be built from the title, there are Three basic things: Powerlessness, darkness, and water.  Power can either be physical or metaphorical. Think of a time in your life when you faced these.  Was it happy? Was it scary?

Given the title above: What picture would you draw? What story would you tell?

What poem would you write?

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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24 Responses to When You Have No Power You Go Swimming in the Dark

  1. You know, I really enjoy swimming in the pool at night…more than I can ever enjoy it in the daylight

    Liked by 1 person

  2. CJ Hartwell says:

    Knowing my poetry skills, it would probably wind up as a limerick. I like your ideas better. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Debra says:

    This is beautifully thought provoking, Andrew. This summer has been challenging to me in so many ways. I think the phrase just speaks to me of courage. Courage to trust that we don’t have all the answers and that sometimes we keep moving in that darkness just believing there will be light (power) at some point. I live by that belief and it holds back the fear–or at least keeps it in check! Thank you for this beautiful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think of my friend, Marx, who shared with me his experience of going through ADT and radiation for prostate cancer 15 years ago. To calm himself, and get some peace in his mind, he would go swimming in a friend’s pool and let the water envelop and surround him and his thoughts. He found a peaceful meditation that carried him through his treatment and formed a habit that has stuck with him ever since. Good luck with your poem, Andrew. I think that you have tapped into something universal with this theme.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Allan – just realized I forgot to give you credit for the Paradise fire idea, sorry about that. I’ll edit the post.

      And your friend, is a perfect example of how this works and his story would make a powerful poem. I didn’t expect this idea to go this far, but something’s happening with it.


  5. You’re the poet, Andrew–I’m a simple fiction writer. I’m more interested in what you’d write!
    Agreed–in the right hands, that is a powerful sentence.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dave Foyle says:

    Thank you for today’s post expanding on PH’s title. Y’know, today’s post, with all of its questions, is a nice reflection/meditation for all of us. Thank you for making me think!

    (It sounds a lot like an outline to a sermon/message that you should give!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t think of it in sermon terms, but there are possibilities. When I first saw PH’s post, I knew this had places to go.

      Glad it got your brain working.


  7. lifelessons says:

    But I go swimming in the dark nearly every night. Lovely under the stars in volcanicallly heated wate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly the point – each of us sees these three things differently and not all dark and scary. Sometimes it’s just a simple part of life. There is story, poem, there – not many of us get to swim in volcanically heated water under the stars and we’d like to know what that is like …


  8. Deb Farris says:

    I guess I should also answer your question…this would be like beginning my day without taking time to pray.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Deb Farris says:

    I just love seeing the mundane made marvelous!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I really liked this post. In itself it moved from light to darkness, but there was always a shimmer of hope in there. Very thoughtful and very poetic. Thanks for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

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