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


Directed by Matthew Thompson.

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