My Wife Teaching Me to Swim

by CL Bledsoe


It’s easy to sink, to become a tumbling stone,
to rely on the will of the water.
My wife is patient. She knows
my M. O., that I will simply stop
if it becomes too difficult, stand,
and wade to shore.

Just relax and float, she says, bring
your legs up.
I kick and achieve a slow
sink. There is no one to see
my embarrassment, but I look
and notice a thin snake, a young trout;
the river is high and fast around us,
but we are protected from the current by debris.

It’s easy, she says, just let it hold you
up.
I kick and I sink. I’m 30 and can’t
swim. Not as bad as twelve and couldn’t
ride a bike, or seven and couldn’t tie
my shoes. Even if I learn this, I still won’t know
which goes on the outside—the knife
or the fork, or how to buy wine
except by picking the most interesting label.
I’d still rather have grape juice.

I am learning beer. I know there are more shades
of rice than white or brown. Bread
can have flavor. Meat is not a requirement.
Taste is subjective. I am not
always wrong. I can’t swim because I never learned.

It’s easy, she says. Trust the water.
It will hold you up.
The water fills
my ears, my nose, my eyes. I kick.
Just relax, she says. I kick. Just relax.
I kick.