Over the last year or so I have returned to swimming. I grew up swimming a lot — my mother still swims laps at the pool where I spent many summer days with my siblings. I even had a brief stint on my middle school swim team. But as life got busier, the time and effort it takes to get to the pool, change, swim, then shower seemed too much compared to the ease of stepping outside and going for a run. Then a knee injury last year opened my mind and forced my body to return to other activities. One of the things that I appreciate about swimming is the awareness of breath and rhythm of breathing. Ever since those days years ago when I watched my father struggle with breath, his lungs too weak to manage this essential act, I cannot take breathing for granted. Being in water reminds me of the intention behind every breath.

“Imagine drowning,”

he told me, as if he could.

How, I wanted to ask, would I know the feeling of filling up 

with something not air?

So I left the doctor in the hallway, 

and returned to the work of breathing,

having decided to forget drowning.

I watched it, the breathing.

The bi-pap machine swooshed air into your lungs, in two parts it seemed,

as if the machine itself needed to take a breath before going on.

Would it break you?

But then, just at the breaking point,


The air pulled out,

leaving you for a moment

smaller, softer.

Then, again, it pumped you up to a taut balloon.

On and on, this would go.

For how long, I wondered.

I saw that you did, too.

Your face:  resignation and fear. 

Like drowning, I suppose.