Learning to Swim . . . and Believe
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on July 6th, 2015

Each day, on Garrison Keillor’s brief daily NPR program, The Writer’s Almanac, he reads a poem. If you’re a regular listener, you may have heard the one I reprint below, about the first day of summer swim lessons for children.

I missed it this morning, but fortunately TI enthusiast Cynthia Ford, a law professor at University of Montana, sent me a link.

I reprint this in part because the second stanza is a lyrically beautiful description of the TI Superman drill. How ‘poetically’ could you describe any aspect of your swimming experience—not necessarily in rhyme or verse, but in a way that captures a spirit that others may not have considered.

The First Day

by Joseph Green

Saturday morning the pool fills

with children. Their parents

want them to learn something

preposterous: not just to tread water,

but to move through it as easily as they run

at home from one room to another. Naturally

the miracle of flotation escapes some of them;


however, the believers, buoyant in their faith,

hold their breath and push away from the side.

Face down, arms outstretched, these blessed ones

glide like angels in a fleeting state of grace,

then pop up grinning when they run out of air.

Splashed with success, they hug themselves

happily in the blue-lipped chill.


Meanwhile, the few still clinging to the wall

watch their own number shrink. Small, miserable,

suspicious of their parents for making them

suffer here, they begin to see the arrangement

of things: how easily everyone can turn

away from them when they don’t give in,

how lonely a personal conviction is.

Hear Garrison Keillor read this poem.

“The First Day” by Joseph Green from What Water Does at a Time Like This. © Moon Path Press, 2015. (buy now)

The Writer’s Almanac Site.

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