The Jackknife – A Poem by Tricia McCallum

Poetry Breakfast

The Jackknife

Up the rungs of the diving ladder one more time,
gripping the cold, unforgiving steel
with my shriveled bare toes, nine steps to the top,
reaching, it seemed,
to the sky.

Still in his work clothes, my father stands watching
from behind the chain-link fence surrounding the pool.
I knew he was coming,
I’d practiced all day for this.

I tiptoe along the rough pebbly surface
of the board and stand shivering at the very edge;
sneak a quick glance at the water so far below
speckled eerily now with fluorescent lights,
preparing to make this one count.

It’s time.
Great lungfuls of air taken in,
the familiar flutter in my chest
as I bend my knees deeply, leaping upward
high as I can go,
then even higher, the board shuddering behind me,
trying to remember all his pointers at once:

Don’t look at the water: it’s not…

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