Swimming Lessons reprinted with kind permission of Deanna Young and the Arc Poetry Society, Ottawa, Canada
by Deanna Young
Our children are bottom-feeders, feeling for a puck in the deep end. Floridian in fuchsia suits, they surface fish-eyed in goggles, gasp, and snort blue water. We sit on the sidelines, barefoot, tapping chlorinated puddles. Pass comments back and forth like cards. In my mind we are pressing the soles of our feet together. I never get my wish. The lesson is always over before I drag you to the deck, cup one hand under your chin, pinch your nose, and breathe myself into your lungs. Our children appear in garish towels, unrelated, though clearly the same species: purple around the gills, hair sleek as sealskin. Whatever happens they will all know how to swim. It is our job to see that nothing does happen. In the parking lot after balmy showers, blowfish bobbing around us in parkas, mouths steaming, you stretch, and mention how you spent the week knocking down a concrete wall. With your head? I wonder out loud. And later, what it takes to get through.
——————————————————————————– 3rd Prize, Poem of the Year Contest 2003 Arc 51, Winter 2003