Swimming Lesson

By Victoria Kennefick

the day I almost drowned
mother pulled me out
of the ocean by my hair

the world blurry with seawater
air wet and my lips blue without
I was not sure

I was alive – my eight-year-old
chest tight and sore
it surprised me

how quick
the surrender

I could see myself
a baby in a bubble

the bubble simmered
a tiny heart pulsed
in and out like a wave

it didn’t count
that sun once baked my skin
to contentment

that I liked cats or yellow jumpers
stitches prepared
to unravel

start again – I resurfaced on sand
little sister knelt beside me
father called my name

wanting to die
salty droplets
trembled on my skin


*Selected for the 2023 Ó Bhéal Festival*

Directed by Matthew Thompson.

"Swimming Lesson" from Eat or We Both Starve (Carcanet Press, 2021). Reproduced with permission of Carcanet Press.