Confessions of a Non-Swimmer

Barbara Simmons

Barbara Simmons

First Place Winner, Age 18+ Category. San José Public Library | Spring into Poetry Contest 2023

My answer to jumping
into the deep
or any end of any pool
had simply been
not to.
I've never learned to swim,
begetting, I suppose,
my hesitancy to dive into
conversations or relationships:
The former found me paddling towards my words
like weighted objects I'd been told to find,
but only if I'd dive. So, I'd emerge before the words
could choke me. The latter found me fearful of
submersion into someone else's waters,
a baptism into who they thought
I should have been.
I'm swimming in my thoughts to
days when, from the bleachers,
I would listen to the scratchy sounds of orders
from the local sergeant tasked with teaching
high school girls to swim.
I clutched my note from home, the one
my mother wrote each Tuesday
marked with "monthly" on it, our
personal request to let my own flow
take me out of water, onto land.
Now, I wonder what it would have felt like
if I'd learned to swim.
Would all the sunken words
have floated to the surface, would I
have uttered what I'd thought about,
knowing that I'd already seen below
where thinking dragged me
diving into life, well
before my body thought me ready?
Would I have pulled
away from several almost drownings
saving what I'd glimpsed of
me when I sat still, alone, intact,
on my own shore, or, at the very least,
feeling the bottom of the pool,
scraping my knees, opening my eyes,
sensing I had something to stand on?

First Place Winner, Age 18+ Category. San José Public Library | Spring into Poetry Contest 2023

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