Slice of Life Tuesday: At the Edge

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Next week I return to school, and I’ve been trying to articulate my feelings about it. I’m squished between a lot of emotions, and I thought this poem might reflect some of those thoughts…

At the Edge of School, 2021

It’s the
dread and excitement
that build with each step
up the high-dive ladder:
closer and closer to the top
the flutters grow
and it’s hard to tell
if my grip slips
from pool water
or sweaty palms

Standing at the top,
toes knurled around the edge
I take in the breeze,
the chlorine smell,
the faraway noises of grown-ups and kids
and splashes and squeals

I’ve been here before.

Sometimes
you don’t always
land so well –
you hit the water funky, or
water goes up your nose, or
your swimsuit goes rogue
and you question
why you ever came to the pool
in the first place

Looking down,
I wonder why I continue to
make this leap
year after
year after
year

But the pool is one of my
favorite places to be –
I’m comfortable here,
at home,
happy
within myself

So I guess
despite the funk
and the water noise
there’s really nothing to do
but brace myself
take a breath

And jump.

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15 Responses to “Slice of Life Tuesday: At the Edge”

  1. edifiedlistener Says:

    Oh my goodness, I love this so much! I felt all those feelings while reading – the excitement and dread, the fear and the curiosity. You bring the scene to life – it’s wildly palpable and the sense of anticipation you create raises my heart rate. This is a zinger of a poem!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the reading and felt ALL the feels. That’s what I was going for! My guess is that it doesn’t take much for teachers to feel that lurching anticipation that’s equal parts joy and dread, especially in years like this one…

  2. Amy Ellerman Says:

    Love the inventiveness of your wordplay here: “Standing at the top,
    toes knurled around the edge. . .” This whole slice is so evocative with sensory imagery; it’s the perfect metaphor for back to school.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thanks! That phrase, “toes knurled” was fun for me to write, so I’m glad it was fun to read. As for perfect metaphors for going back to school, I’m glad I found a good one. I’m thinking there are probably LOTS of things we could compare…

  3. Stacey Shubitz Says:

    I can feel the way you’re bracing yourself to jump into the metaphorical pool. But, as you know, you’re going to be thrilled once you hit the water.

  4. Tim Gels Says:

    Rogue swimsuits are the worst! I think you’ve captured so much about the beginning of a school year in this piece. The leap really is worth it, but the time leading up to it can be difficult. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thanks, Tim. I guess the beginning of the year contains a LOT of metaphors within, now that I think about it. And yes, the leap is ALWAYS worth it, even if I don’t quite nail the entry!

  5. Karen Says:

    This is so well-written; a perfect metaphor for what we do, year after year. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thank you! I’m a poet at heart, so finding the right metaphor is one of my favorite things to do in life. =))

  6. arjeha Says:

    With that keep comes confidence in ourselves that even if things go a little wrong we still have this and all will be well. We all need that touch of fear. Overconfidence leads to problems. You perfectly captured he feelings of teachers as they face the beginning of a new school year. Hope you have a great one.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Yes! And even if my landing this year resembles more of a belly flop, I know that once I’m in the water, all will be well. =)) As for the overconfidence, you remind me of a dear friend and storytelling colleague who talks about fear and excitement being two sides of the same coin. We need a little of both mixed in!

  7. onathought Says:

    ack! I love this so much! What an amazing way to think of it and really articulate that feeling of back to school … I love the way you did this!

  8. vivian chen Says:

    What a perfect metaphor! What other profession evokes such emotion?

  9. Fran Haley Says:

    Such an energetic and true analogy, Lainie. I felt all the layers – pool and school (how fun also that these rhyme!!). In an “unprecedented” [worn-out word] act, I went to the beach with my sister-in-law and nieces where I stayed until the day before the first required work day. I feel like my plunge – for there’s never any wading, is there?? – I feel like my plunge back into work was pretty clean. From Day 1 I was amazed by the great positivity of colleagues, even in the face of major curricular changes due to new state mandates which yours truly has to guide. I decided that “stay positive” needs to be my mantra for the year. I adore this word “knurled” – perfect for the toes gripping the pool’s edge, and the internal dialogue, wondering why you continue to do this, and others not noticing the belly flop – thing is, generally, everyone’s too busy dog-paddling like mad to notice each others’ belly flops and truth be told: how shall we ever perfect our form if we don’t ever take the risk?? Here’s to an extraordinary year, to your lucky, lucky students, and to all the exhilarating delights awaiting just ahead, for all of you.

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