Life Guard [poem] by David Simpson

My father coaxed me to lie face down on the lake’s cold surface
across his forearms, reassuring me
that I could take a deep breath,
put my nose into the water, and he wouldn’t let me drown.
Despite my protests, he shifted my buoyed weight
to just his palms, then to one palm, then to a finger
which, for short moments, he eased from my chest
until I learned I didn’t need him.
I went on in Boy Scouts to swim a mile,
to lifeguard and canoe, trusting that I would stay
afloat in any deep water. But nothing prepared me
for the day when he lay on his back upon a bed
and like a stranger on the shore I stood
listening to a tired swimmer cough up water from his lungs
on his way to the other side.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

[Refer: This poem put the editors in mind of Zelda Lockhart’ story “The Empty Nest.”]

Image by Liz West via Flickr Creative Commons

David Simpson was born blind in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in 1952. After attending the Overbrook School for the Blind through eighth grade, he became one of the first blind students in Chester County to attend public school. Simpson earned a master’s degree in organ performance from Westminster Choir College and traveled to Paris for a year of private study with the blind organist Andre Marchal. He has an MFA from New York University. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals including Alaska Quarterly Review, River Styx, The Cortland Review, Verse Daily, and La Petite Zine. He has received grants from the Independence Foundation and the NEA. In 2007, Simpson and his identical twin brother, Daniel, released a CD of their poetry entitled Audio Chapbook. He has read at venues which include The Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia’s First-Person Festival, WXPN World Café, and on Whyy’s Radio Times with Marty Moss‑Coane. He is currently working on a one-person show. A collection of Simpson’s poems, The Way Love Comes to Me, is slated for publication later this year.