Swim Lessons

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Swim lessons often conjure up the idea of summer and for most childhood (if you learned to swim as an adult that’s awesome). My summers were dominated by swimming when I was younger. I often took lessons but was a naturally gifted swimmer (could be the Pisces), but in summer my mom would give my sister and I fifty cents (crazy to believe), and we’d pay a quarter to swim and have a quarter for a Charleston Chew piece of candy after. I was a child in the 1980’s, so if you’re questioning the price.. I guess maybe things have changed. They have changed definitely, in that, most parents would not be ok with leaving their kids at the community pool alone for the afternoon. However, my mom did it, all the neighbor kids parents did it, and our parents swam at the same pool. There was just a trust in the community, in our neighbors. There was almost a neighborly hierarchy. The kids at the pool were the kids we played “Kick the Can,” and “Ghost in the Graveyard,” with at night. My sister was only a year and a half older, and I could go to her for help; however, there were older kids I knew there that looked out for us. They let us tag alone during night games and if we needed something at the pool, they would help us. Anyway, I wrote this poem during a summer as an adult that I sort of reference as ‘the summer I don’t remember.’ The truth is, I don’t. My grandfather had passed away. I was living in his house. I was struggling with coming to terms with a significant injury to my leg that changed the way I functioned. The only thing I do remember of that summer is writing in that house. I worked constantly and when I was not working, I was alone in this house with all my grandparents things almost unmoved. I did not know if I wanted to go up down, etc. I was severely depressed and lost. I felt like the poem was a reflection on things that changed inside me at the time. It sort of felt like lessons learned. Being that it was summer, I associated it with the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned or taken in summer, which were swim lessons. That summer it was the poems that kept me afloat, basking in memories and details of life. This is one of then..

Swim Lesson

I came a long way.
Being young, you learn
By getting too close to things
Learning sometimes you can get hurt, sometimes you’re protected, and often we’re not.

I still feel urges to touch something white- pure white
And fret that I have human hands,
Full of dirt, doubt, germs, spills
That threaten anything white to be stained forever.

Watching babies suck their toes,
They almost want to be able to take themselves a part.
I don’t think that ever leaves us fully.

First in school, they taught addition
And then they tell you there is this thing called subtraction;
I think that’s when I lost interest in math.

At church, I watch a baby relentlessly stare at me.
I am envious of it.
Sometimes I wish I still had the ability
To study something so strongly without apology.

The first time my dad took me walking in a wheat field,
I laughed at how the feeling of the wheat tickled my ankles.
I did not notice the mosquitoes
Biting me at the same time.

I go walking in wheat fields now,
Brush my palms a top their furry tips, and it feels
Powerful. I feel like I know something of the wind.
What it does in a day. What it wants. What it can do.

Early in life, if it was not spoken, it was not fact.
I sometimes wish words were so trustworthy.
But simple promises have troubled to assemble themselves too many times
And this has disassembled my trust in words.
Action has become the sturdiest structure to rest my weary body.

When you used to read to me, I used to beg to know the end.
Now, I’d rather not.
There was a time when ends did not feel like fiction.
In the narrative of real life they are.

Silence used to be this thing that scared me.
Now noise scares me more.
My needs have turned into howls
And my wants go on with the day

They continue to simply collect images of beauty
I can use when the lifeguards eyes fall out
And I’m in the water, which is always much deeper
Then we imagine it to be at first glance.

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