Saturday, August 16, 2008
by Elizabeth Honey
They do exercises together in the slow lane,
laughing till their walnut faces are as wrinkled
as their rubber bathing caps.
They take ten minutes to submerge
and when they do the tide comes in!
We duck-dive down and watch them.
Flower skirts twenty years old
float around the old hippo hips.
They laugh and pedal and bob.
They dance on the tips of their hippo toes,
and breast stroke neatly to the music.
Slowly they bounce from side to side,
doing dainty underwater kicks.
Then in the changing room we take sly glances.
They don’t care who sees what.
Wrinkled saggy baggy old white hippos
wobble like jelly when they laugh.
But usually they’ve gone by the time we get out of the pool.
Just little drifts of powder on the tiles,
and a waft of lavender.
From Mongrel Doggerel (Allen & Unwin)
Liz says: The idea for the hippos poem came from the Richmond Baths where I go for a swim a couple of times a week. Us writers have to get exercise or we turn into computer-zombie-fatbottomblobs. (I also have quite a few good ideas when I'm swimming—I think it's something to do with the breathing, and the fogged up goggles.)
The hippos poem is all true. These women really enjoy themselves, being dainty and weightless in the pool together, and boy, they love to laugh! They seem old fashioned. I bet their grandchildren love them. I do.
Elizabeth Honey is an award-winning author of poetry, picture books and junior novels. Her playful humour, originality and irrepressible energy strike a chord with kids everywhere and her stories about the Stella Street mob have been translated into many languages. Her poetry collections include Honey Sandwich, The Man in the Moon and her latest book, I’m Still Awake, Still.
Poetry exercise: Write your own poem comparing a person or a group of people to a particular type of animal. Think about the way they move or the sounds they make as well as the way they look. You could also include a description of their ‘habitat’: a playground, a footy field, an all-you-can-eat food buffet.