Saturday, August 25, 2018

Learning to Swim by Terence McCaffrey

My son dog paddles over the scratchy string
of blue and white buoys and into the murk
of the deep end, oblivious to oblivion,
water overwhelming water, the lesser body losing.
He jerks across the surface, his skinny limbs
raking the darker depths, stirring the cold
hardness of becoming.

He looks the way most adults feel:
all strain and struggle, desperate
to stay afloat. Myself, I’m teetering on a sliver
of vinyl liner in a 1984 T-shirt, forever watching,
begging him with every inch he gains to stay
just as he is: a boy, a ballplayer, an aspiring author.

Nights, I’ve been finding him in our bed,
so I carry his long body, heavy with the weight
of new worry, back to his small blue room
where he still dreams high flying
comic book dreams, but they’re waning dreams
I know will someday disappear.

Afternoon shadows spill across the uneven pavers.
He’s spitting now. Smiling. I think he’s got it,
the notion that progress takes work.
His hand slaps the ladder’s rung, and somewhere
young sparrows pull and sweep from their nest.

Sparks of water fly from his trunks as he shuffles
for the shallow end, returning to where he started,
the safe, clean neighborhood of childhood.
When his face flashes with kindness
I feel like a fugitive with a stricken heart, knowing
this will happen again when he’s older,
this latest test of his will. This test of mine.

Terence McCaffrey’s poems have appeared in Connecticut River Review, Freshwater, Right Hand Pointing, and elsewhere. He received a M.A.L.S. degree in Humanities from Wesleyan University and a B.A. from the University of Hartford where he was the recipient of the Phyllis B. Abrahms Award in Fiction. He lives with his wife and two children in West Simsbury, CT.

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