Category Archives: Inspiration – Poetry

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

Alternate Breath by TJ Wiley, 2013

I’m already in over my head
treading lightly, waiting for you
reader, to swim out, join me
where you cannot touch.

But how can you trust me
not to fill your pockets
with the bricks of mourning,
sands of an abused childhood or
an anchor of barnacled love
(so many word-sailors lost to that brine).

These words formed wet
in some waved harbor of Sound
will come to you from a dry page
in a dry room where you haven’t
even thought about your next breath

until now.
But believe me when I tell you
even the bones that hold you up
are 22% water, and doesn’t that
make you just a little wary
of your blue-marble world
which spins and hangs from nothing?

We all begin with a crawl stroke
pulling toward the horizon—
that seam where life and darkness join
beyond our high-elbow reach.
Jump. The sea’s surface cries and sings
at every wave’s white break.
This is why we must learn to breathe
on both sides of our bodies.

TJ Wiley


Written one year after Teresa “escaped” from Alcatraz and published in Floating Bridge Review, No. 6.  She is a long time swimmer who can be often seen swimming in Useless Bay and Saratoga passage.