SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

Mermaid by Thea Engst

I used to sit, head down,

focus on my hands, hold my breath,

and try not to listen.


My father’s calm voice strained, my mother screaming,

She’s crying because she’s failing Spanish!

No, she’s crying because you’re yelling.


And I wished so badly that I was at practice,

where I would jump in feet first

and let myself sink,


hearing nothing but the muffled pumps

of my teammates’ strokes and turns.

Keeping my hands above my head I’d push


the air through my nostrils,

let my ears sting as I reached twelve feet,

let my lungs cramp


until my legs were numb, toes

touching the bottom, I’d crouch and endure

just a little longer,


until I almost didn’t believe

I had the strength to push back up.

Then I would break the surface,


the splashing of the slapped water

piercing my ears, my coach

threatening the stragglers: Jump or I’ll push.

Thea Engst received her MFA in Creative Writing with a focus in Poetry from Emerson College. Her poetry can be found in Poets Reading the News, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Sugar House Review, Gutter Eloquence, and Runaway Parade. She works as a bartender and her nonfiction book, Drink Like a Bartender, was published by Simon & Schuster in fall, 2017.

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