Sarah J. Diehl
Swimming Lesson at Six Years Old
Before that day, I’d swum only an arm’s
length from the curled rim of the Olympic-
sized pool. Certain of touch,
I could navigate the distance.
But then the instructor—tanned, leggy
woman in navy suit with orange
flowers—commanded that I cross the center.
As I followed the black tiled lane markers,
targeting the deep end, I cleared the half-
way point, the shadow of the empty
lifeguard stand, white shrouded ring
tethered to its side. But at the decline
to twelve feet, stilled tongues
of diving boards looming overhead,
a trapdoor dropped; cloudless sky
clamped me into airless blue.
Unmoored, I fumbled toward the edge,
inhaling water’s sting. The surge
of my blood drowned the teacher’s voice
clapping in my brain. My lungs nettled by breath,
I heaved my chest onto warmed cement.
I heard the thwack and plonk
of tennis balls, the racket of blue jays tussling
over day-old fries, those hard facts I’d lost
as I was mesmerized by my dark form
alone, crawling the vast, indifferent deep.