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MICHAEL KEITH

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Hearts and rips

 

Heart that goes swimming, be aware of rips.

Rips occur often at beaches you frequent,

where waves build and break,

where you launch yourself into turbulent flow.

 

All that water which waves push up

has to go somewhere.

It drains, it channels to deeper parts

along the shore and out to sea

feeding the rip current.

 

Heart, every year thousands like you

get into difficulty with rips.

Lifeguards know the safe places.

They say, ‘To avoid this hazard

swim between the flags at patrolled beaches.’

But as most beaches where hearts swim

are unpatrolled, here is some advice.

 

You can ride a rip,

its seaward run ends at a certain point,

it will not suck you under.

If you get caught in one, don’t panic.

Go with the flow until the current weakens, then

swim parallel to the beach for thirty metres

and back to shore.

 

Heart, learn the ways of rips,

they are part of your swimming

– even something to catch,

not just to get caught in.

 

 

Found poem sourced from rip interactive and signage in Surf Lifesaving New Zealand’s centenary exhibition Between the Flags, 2010; and with acknowledgment to ‘And my heart goes swimming’ by Roma Potiki.

 

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