Learning to Swim

At first, it’s a dog-paddle, all

kicking and flailing and taking on

too much water. Slow. Slogging. It becomes the breast stroke,

less effort. Sustainable. Getting nowhere fast, so you move into

freestyling the long stroke,

poorly. It’s all about rotating your arms and

paddling your legs in time with

breathing. Learning to coordinate all three. Exhausting.

Gratifying, and you backstroke for a time,

catching your breath. Watching the clouds, the water always tugging,

tugging you back. Tugging you down. Making you swim and swim and swim because

there is no end to the water. No land. No shore. No raft or boat or log to cling to,

just the water’s lazy promise, “I will drown you if I can. I promise. Oh, I vow.”

And so you learn to tread water, for

those times you cannot swim. It’s that or succumb

to the water always whispering, always whispering, always





Filed under poetry

8 responses to “Learning to Swim

  1. I love this one, Terri. Love the subtlety, the undercurrent of emotion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Elizabeth Young

    Not sure if you wrote this one for Chris but it sure applies to me right now in our current state of national affairs.


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      I originally wrote it for Chris, about pain and grief. While riding in the car, I had the thought that pain is like swimming when there’s no land in sight, and if you don’t learn to tread water, you’re a goner.
      After I wrote it all out and re-read it, I realized it pertained as much to the current situations in this country (and elsewhere) just as well, so I took out all the “me” and left it open to the readers’ interpretations.
      So you got it right on both counts!


  3. Elizabeth Young

    Well, it is beautiful and I feel like even though I know how to tread water, I still might be a goner. I don’t see how we get through all of this.


  4. Janis W

    Very nice.


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