Saturday Swim Lessons – Deborah Nedelman 2014

Deborah Nedelman    (

Saturday again,
another Shabbat,
I churn down the pool
coming up for air at the blue end

There you sit, knees to chest
an eight year-old
in the flimsy armor
of a pink swimsuit
the fear in your eyes
like a mirror–

Fifty years float between
me and my reflection–
the lonely girl
back against the echoing wall
overwhelmed in the chlorinated air

Jewish fathers are admonished:
“Teach your child to swim”
an odd religious dictate
unless, perhaps, the Red Sea
did not actually part.

Sure and duty-bound
not a pray-er, a weak sinner
not religious but for this:
each Saturday, each Shabbat,
my father drove me
to the public pool

abandoned me
to the women’s locker room
caustic smells, icy showers,
exposed flesh shivering in towels
draped over shoulders like prayer shawls

Shy and bookish
not a splasher, a weak kicker
I clung to the pool’s edge
each Saturday, every Shabbat,
and begged for reprieve
from this strange wet business

I watch you rise,
and fifty years collapse.
You are gathered into parental arms
eyes gleam and you boast
“I put my head in!”

Another lap
on this Saturday, this Shabbat
at the blue end of the pool
Again I inhale and push off
into the forgiveness of water