From issue 43, The Games People Play
In retrospect my legs were long,
two strong cylinders that pushed me
up the stadium steps, my body bound
with plastic wrap, the time running down.
I liked to be under direction and duress,
the stress of the short tick of the clock,
the predawn speed sessions
and my name in the megaphone
as my coach watched me master the fast stroke.
Nope, he said. Nope. In Augusta, Georgia
I was twenty-two, nude on the weigh-in scale,
drunk with dehydration. We used spit cups
and suppositories, compared finish times
and muscle size, trained inside the humid tongue
of the South. My stomach was as flat
as the oar, resting on the water after winning
the race. I have a different body now.
I’m still desperate and public. I move at a fast pace.
Kirsten Andersen’s poems have appeared in Tin House, Alaska Quarterly Review, Court Green, and elsewhere. A recent finalist for the National Poetry Series, she lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
This is precisely how I was when I rowed crew except I ate a lot of chicken fingers freshman year, smoked weed, and always felt uncomfortable wearing those crew outfits that showed off your junk. That rowing in Georgia in spring thing, though, was a real bitch.