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The summer you learned to swim
was the summer I learned to be at peace with myself.
In May you were afraid to put your face in the water
But by August, I was standing in the pool once more
when you dove in, then retreated to the wall saying
You forgot to say Sugar! So I said Come on Sugar, you can do it
and you pushed off and swam to me and held on
laughing, your hair stuck to your cheeks—
you hiccupped with joy and swam off again.
And I dove in too, trying new things.
I tried not giving advice. I tried waking early to pray. I tried
not rising in anger. Watching you I grew stronger—
your courage washed away my fear.
All day I worked hard thinking of you.
In the evening I walked the long hill home.
You were at the top, waving your small arms,
pittering down the slope to me and I lifted you high
so high to the moon. That summer all the world
was soul and water, light glancing off peaks.
You learned the turtle, the cannonball, the froggy, and the flutter
And I learned to stand and wait for you to swim to me.
Copyright 2006 Michael Simms. First published in The Writer’s Almanac, edited by Garrison Keillor.