© 2022 Maine Public
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Swimming With My Father

Today’s poem is “Swimming with My Father” by Carolyn Locke. Carolyn Locke is a graduate of Bates College and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. A Maine resident and high school teacher for many years, she is the author of the haibun Not One Thing: Following Matsuo Basho's Narrow Road to the Interior and three books of poetry— Always This Falling, The Place We Become, and most recently The Riddle of Yes (June 2019).

She writes, “Summer always brings strong memories of my father. Because he ran his own business, he was able to adjust his working hours. On the hottest days of summer, he would frequently close up shop early in order to take the family for a swim at a nearby pond. Recently, that image of him in the pond surfaced along with a deep appreciation for the example he set not only for swimming but also for living."

Swimming With My Father
by Carolyn Locke

I’d stand at the pond’s edge and watch him
walk slowly into the water, wetting his arms
as it reached his knees then rose to the edge
of his green trunks. He’d splash his chest
and continue on until he was waist deep,
then scoop water in his hands, christen
his face, plunge head first, and disappear.
I couldn’t wait for him to come up laughing
and turn toward me, water dripping off his nose.
He’d swim back, put his arms around me
and carry me out to where my toes
could not touch bottom, rest me belly down
on the water’s surface, the lightest touch
of his palm keeping me lifted as I began
to kick my feet, spouting fountains high in the air,
the tickle of bubbles traveling the length
of my legs when they tired. One day, I learned
to swim without him. But now, I’ve forgotten how.

Poem copyright © 2018Carolyn Locke. Reprinted from Pudding Magazine, Issue 67, by permission of Carolyn Locke.