Dale Cottingham

Photo by Lucas Allmann from Pexels

Swan Dive

Look at me with these nouns, mounting verbs,
these lines that somehow link together,
teetering on the verge.
I feel gangly and unmeasured trying to find a stance.
If only this language was more substantial.
If only I could make a life beyond this life,
one I didn’t grow bored of.
Well, night night. Tomorrow I’ll try again.

How many times does the confusion back me up
leaving me gut punched and empty.
How many times are my memories
like coals at the burn barrel’s bottom,
all shimmering with heat
making me think, with all the smoke
and flames, that something’s going on
but it’s so hard to tell.

At one point I thought the pressure was on
me trying to say what had been said before, only better.
Now, I’ve let myself off the hook
I just play, which is where creativity comes from anyway, right?
So, I’ll have some fun while the sun’s still up,
lace some laces, spray the plants,
just like the old days at the creek’s bluff
leaping in abandon, making my version of a swan dive.

Editor’s Note:

The narrator presents every poet’s conundrum when caught in a creative funk.  Some “memories / like coals at the burn barrel’s bottom” sparkle and invite the poet to dive into them to discover something precious. What a poet to do if not just take a swan-dive?

Dale Cottingham has published poems and reviews of poetry collections in many journals. He is a Breadloafer, won the 2019 New Millennium Award for Poem of the Year, and is a finalist in the 2021 Great Midwest Poetry Contest.

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