Did you drown? The swimming instructor
asks me when I panic as I float on my belly
and she is no longer holding me up. I thrash
around like a trout on a fishing line.
If I drowned, I’d be dead, I laugh. I recall
at eight being pushed in the pool and hitting
my head and watching a child with my same
swimsuit lying on the bottom in the deep end.
The next thing I know I feel a whoosh
and I am back in my body outside of the water
and I wake up spurting water like a whale
while a teenage lifeguard straddles me.
Now I am eighteen working on a Wyoming
ranch, I want to learn to swim so I can
go out on a boat and swim with the dudes.
Before my next lesson, I get the chance.
I throw off my life jacket and jump
in the Snake River remembering
the swim teacher’s instructions:
Just float and the water will hold you up.
But she lied because the water sweeps
and swirls and I’m whirling in a washing
machine that won’t stop. One second
I see shore and the next blue water.
I kick my feet and thrash my arms
and I sink as water swishes and fills
my eyes, nose and mouth until I stop
struggling and my mind goes blank.
I float over to the shore where a teenage
girl I recognize as me sprawls in the sand.
A crowd gathers and the dude ranch
foreman gives her CPR like on TV.
I lose interest as I lie on soft clouds
among the saffron yellow and magenta colors
and then I feel a tug on my suit and I am
pulled back into my body where I sit up.
You’re fine, the foreman says.
You got caught up in a whirlpool.
But as I rest, he whispers voice shaking:
She was dead for a good five minutes.
Originally published in The Vultures Are Circling (Cyberwit 2023)
Sharon Waller Knutson is a retired journalist who lives in Arizona. She has published eight poetry books including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields (Flutter Press 2014,) What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say and Trials & Tribulations of Sports Bob (Kelsay Books 2021) and Survivors, Saints and Sinners and Kiddos & Mamas Do the Darndest Things (Cyberwit 2022.) Her work has also appeared recently in Discretionary Love, Impspired, GAS Poetry, Art and Music, The Rye Whiskey Review, Black Coffee Review, Terror House Review, Trouvaille Review, ONE ART, Mad Swirl, The Drabble, Gleam, Spillwords, Muddy River Review, Verse-Virtual, Your Daily Poem, Red Eft Review and The Five-Two.