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 going anywhere,
dividing myself neatly in half,
toes touched lightly to fingers,
the uncanny feeling of suspension in mid-air,
forcing my body straight again:
Ramrod straight, now,
You’re an arrow shot at the water, then
down so fast, the world thundering past my ears,
slicing the surface crisply,
sculling quickly up,
the entire time thinking
of all that I did wrong.

On the way home I sit in gloom beside him.
He never sees my best ones, I think,
close to tears, too tired to resist.
You never see my best ones,
I say out loud without thinking.
He pulls the car over, stares at my face,
hot now with embarrassment, and reaches for the towel
to rub my long hair dry.

Lassie, he says gently,
cupping my chin in his hand.
To me, they are all your best ones.
It is all he says, and everything
a little girl needs to hear.

From Nothing Gold Can Stay: A Mother and Father Remembered ( 2011).


About the Poet:
Tricia McCallum, a Glasgow-born Canadian, is an award-winning writer and poet and frequent Huffington Post Blogger. She is the author of two books of poetry: The Music of Leaving (Demeter Press, 2014) and Nothing Gold Can Stay: A Mother and Father Remembered in 2011. McCallum also publishes fiction. Her short story “Clutter” won a Toronto Star award for fiction writing. But her unrivalled passion is poetry and is particularly proud to have twice won the member-voted poetry competition at Her poems are about commonplace things, McCallum says, but she adds that they are not necessarily simple. “The abstract never drew me,” McCallum explains. “I don’t think in those terms. The day-to-day world and all its supposed mundane detail provides me more than I need. “To me it’s not mundane. To me it’s magic.” Read more of Tricia’s work at:


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