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Learning to Dive
Pat Boran


The boy who is learning to dive
has a lot on his mind:

how to place
his unfamiliar, disobeying feet
on the slippery rungs;

how to straighten himself and walk
the length of the board
without glancing down;

how to stand, to extend 
his arms straight ahead, as the other boys do,
without wavering;

how to cancel the height,
the shake in his legs,
once more how to breathe.

But while he stands there and the water stills,
from out of nowhere a kid half his size
goes charging past

to pedal pedal pedal in empty air,
before dropping through into the target
of his own reflection. Resounding cheers,

upon which the older boy gives up,
surrenders to something somewhere
beyond his control,

and at last steps clear
of the board to fall
away into the rapturous applause

of water, each glistening drop
a medal struck to honour his courage,
the triumph of his simply letting go.

From The Next Life (Dedalus Press, 2012).
Used with the author’s permission.


Pat Boran is a poet, author of fiction and nonfiction, publisher, and radio broadcaster. Born in Portlaoise, Ireland in 1963, he currently lives in Dublin where he works as an editor and broadcaster. His most recent book is Waveforms: Bull Island Haiku. Learn more about him at


Post New Comment:
I love this.
Posted 07/19/2016 02:26 AM
I absolutely LOVE this poem. So, so good! Thank you, Pat, for giving us this gift of your art.
Posted 07/15/2016 06:07 PM
Pat, This poem pictures my 11-year-old some 25 years ago--you must have seen him standing on the edge of the diving board poised to go--but oh, so scared.
Posted 07/15/2016 05:33 PM
Lori Levy:
This poem beautifully paints a picture we can see and feel.
Posted 07/15/2016 03:58 PM
I love the way you describe the water -- great imagery!
Posted 07/15/2016 11:01 AM
Brilliant poem, Pat. Spot-on imagery and feeling. I was THERE with the boy! Thanks!
Posted 07/15/2016 10:18 AM
Everything about this is true!!! Love it!!!
Posted 07/15/2016 09:55 AM
I related to the feelings about diving-- with new and awesome language.
Posted 07/15/2016 09:47 AM
Stunning reflection through the eyes of a young boy on a high dive. THIS is so representative of how poems speak-to-the- heart-volumes! Thanks, Pat.
Posted 07/15/2016 09:41 AM
Gilbert Allen:
I especially admire that final stanza.
Posted 07/15/2016 08:09 AM
Sarah Russell:
Just perfect images! I was right there with him.
Posted 07/15/2016 07:34 AM
Posted 07/15/2016 07:24 AM
I love your use of metaphor, especially "the target of his own reflection ". Skillful and enjoyable. Thank you.
Posted 07/15/2016 07:18 AM
As a born coward and as a girl I can feel the fear. But as a boy it must be just awful. This poem really made me think. So beautifully put.
Posted 07/15/2016 03:50 AM

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