The Girl in the Swimming Pool, by Phil Vernon

This poem, by our member Phil Vernon, was selected for Folio #73 in 2019

The girl in the swimming pool

It’s magical to watch a girl begin to drown,
suspended with her face towards the rain,
then lift and place her gently on the ground
and coax her lungs to believe and breathe again.

Your dad had raced the tide, and fought his way
through surf, on jagged granite, years before,
to reach and rescue you from panicked spray
and the pull of the sea, and swim you back to shore.

You fancy higher powers had bid him save
you, so you’d later rescue in her turn
this girl half-floating on her enchanting wave
who sank, and rose, and sank; a stricken bird –

but when you lean out from the parapet
above the shadowed gorge, where far below
those blue and sightless swollen dolls forget,
forget, forget, in time with the river, you know

one life saved means no more nor less – beside
whole families who cowered in stands of cane
and, hopeless, queued in quiet lines to die –
than one life saved: unlinked in any chain.

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