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CALIFORNIA SWIMMING POOL by Sharon Olds : From "The Gold Cell" (Knopf: $14.95, hardcover; $8.95, paperback; 91 pp., 1987 by Sharon Olds.) Born in San Francisco in 1942, now living in New York, Olds writes about the most basic human experiences--birth, death, childhood, motherhood--with tenderness and with a sometimes painful awareness of the wild life ever waiting behind the tame.

March 15, 1987

On the dirt, the dead live-oak leaves

lay like dried-out turtle shells,

scorched and crisp, their points sharp as

wasps' stingers. Sated mosquitoes

hung in the air like sharks in water,

and when you held up a tuna sandwich

a gold sphere of yellow-jackets

formed around your hand in the air

and moved when you moved. Everything circled

around the great pool, blue and

glittering as the sacred waters at

Crocodilopolis, and the boys

came from underwater like that

to pull you down. But the true center was the

dressing rooms: the wet suits,

the smell of chlorine, cold concrete,

the splintered pine wall, on the other

side of which were boys, actually

naked there in air clouded as the

shadows at the bottom of the pool, where the crocodiles

glistened in their slick skins. All summer

the knothole in the wall hissed at me

come see, come see, come eat and be eaten.

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