Swimming Lessons – Contest Winner

by Beverly Magovern Lyon

Would it have made a difference if I had arrived in a later season,
say, spring 1945 or fall of ‘53?
Would my mother have learned to float by then, confident and tan?

Suppose my grandmother had not stepped out for a smoke,
but had stayed at her station sorting the red delicious,
would she have spotted the auburn-haired sailor with tattoos and a bit of mischief?
She called him Red. He called her Dot.
Would she still have been a mother at fifteen?

If her own mother, my great grandmother, had not set her adrift
among a sea of wimples in an orphanage cleaning endless
octagonal tiles with a frayed toothbrush,
would my grandmother have learned somewhere
the buoyancy of love?

And if my great-great grandfather, a fisherman with chapped hands and a salt-licked face, had not left his wife with a splintered boat and four daughters to raise,
would she still have pawned off the eldest to the first man in town who walked on land?
Would it have mattered if that fisherman had learned to swim?
Would I be drowning now?