Swimming Lesson


How truth floats to the surface

like air bubbles from skin in water,

reflecting tiny rainbows

perfect in contour and tension:

her father teaching her to swim

in salty calm on an English summer’s day.

Seagulls drifting overhead like dreams

she, face up in the water, eager

he, knee-deep, bent over her

hand placed carefully in the small of her back

tells her to relax, head back, tummy up, fish-shape

gently begins to withdraw his hand

tells her that he will set her free

watches the closed panic of her eyes

urges her to trust to truth;

air inside her will float her

like a cork, like a polystyrene swim-aid.

She goes down wriggling –

he catches her, helps her to her feet

she spluttering, he drowning a smile

patiently to begin again, urges her to lie back

and this time, his hand imperceptibly removed

limbs, head, ears softly couched by the sea

feels as though she’s inside a bubble

watches his lips, his smiles, distant

his muffled words of praise.

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