Tuesday, January 28, 2014


My father was born exactly
one year after his town
came into existence.

A beloved son of progress,
he was raised by an aunt
because while his busy mother
left on a train headed north
before he was two,

his old man never lived to get old.

Under the direct sunlight in his
whimsical town

my father, a child, worked in the coal mines
and helped power a locomotive
he wouldn't be allowed to ride.

He was around seven
when he first thought of an alternative way
to escape:

by swimming down the river.

He was to rest on the banks when he
stopped feeling his arms,
live from fruit collected
out in the sticks and
sleep under the stars.

That would be his freedom.

It was one soultry afternoon after work
he learned how to swim,
by swallowing a small fish alive
in the shallow waters of the São Franciso river.

Everyone knew that was the only way.

I was seven myself
when he taught me everything
there was to know about swimming,
just in case.

I was excused from the fish.

(Shared with dVerse Poets)


  1. oh wow....that runs deep... a wonderful poem and i love that he taught you what he had learned

  2. A wonderful description of your father, your bond, and his harsh childhood. I love that casual 'just in case'.

  3. Your father is a wonderful example of resilience and determination. I enjoyed the way you wrote about his harsh childhood and the lesson he taught you. I too appreciated the 'just in case'.

  4. I agree with Marina, 'Just in case' has a great ring to it... and I love the image of your father 'swallowing a small fish alive in the shallow waters'. Brilliant

  5. First you're making me feel better that my seven year old has yet to know how to swim...

    This is such vivid writing, vivid and complete...your scene setting and character development are a delight, Kenia. :)

  6. Anonymous1/28/2014

    Best piece I've read today. Direct, affecting, fine word choice and beautifully spaced. Much to like. :-)

  7. Interesting, clear narrative - the emphasis from using the single lines works. Thank you for sharing.

  8. What a marvelous write!

  9. You didn't swallow a fish? Well perhaps he didn't teach you everything then.

    btw: Are you going to the Indie Festival in Austin this year?

    1. lol. I'm a great swimmer, Stormcat!

      I'm afraid I can't make it to Austin this year, you know I'm nowhere in the United States, don't you? I'd love it, though.

      Thanks for your always adorable comments.


  10. Well..considering i don't like Sushi..the thought of swallowing
    whole fish..when learning swimming..is anything
    And i would rather fish for friends..
    that gilled heeled fish....
    But i still enjoy a fried one..
    here and there....

  11. Grandfather to father to child is a meaningful progressing! And not swallowing the fish is one way we start to let tradition slide--a good thing for traditions that involve body maiming and etc. But now, does it have to be a river, a flowing rather than still body of water?

  12. A great story about your father's life. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Excellent write up that is extremely informative, while retaining such a beautiful flow. Love it :)

  14. What a wonderful family story you have shared here, Kenia. I am glad your father taught you how to swim, as well as sharing his story!!

  15. I enjoyed the family story Kenia ~ Your father comes across as a strong & nurturing person ~

    Thanks for sharing ~ Also, if you want to write lunes poem we have an article about lunes in RT as it was already featured ~

  16. What a wonderful story... it came across as slightly surreal to me... Like something of Garcia Marquez... but not until swallowing the fish... and as always surreal without reality is really nothing.

  17. wow, this is amazing write... my grandma had a hard childhood... dropped out of school, worked at a very young age to take care of family... harsh times...

  18. Kenya, a great poem - loved all the details of your father's childhood - the effect of 'just in cage' is just great.

  19. …a lesson learned is worthy of a treasure to keep forever… great story, Kenia… I enjoyed it… smiles…

  20. Anonymous1/29/2014

    love this, Kenia ~

  21. Anonymous1/29/2014

    such lovely story-telling!! :)