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"Swimming as Allegory for Living" & "Scar" by Allison Thung

Swimming as Allegory for Living

When I say I don’t know how to swim, I mean I never learned to do it properly. That they tried to teach me when I was eleven but gave up when I couldn’t figure how to turn my head just enough to breathe, yet not sink. I mean if I accidentally fell into a pool but forced myself to stay really calm, I could probably remain afloat, but it would be obvious to anyone that I was in a precarious situation. I mean I can do some half-assed version of the front crawl in which my face stays submerged for as long as I can hold my breath, while my arms slice through water in unintended tandem, and my feet paddle relentlessly like a runner duck’s, propelling my body forward in small bursts, until it feels like my lungs will explode if I don’t allow my head to break through the surface that very instant to take in as much air as I possibly can, even if the lost momentum causes me to immediately sink like a stone. When I say I don’t know how to swim, I mean I never learned to do it properly. Painlessly.


Instead of speaking your

mind late that afternoon,

you offer up pointless

pleasantries in exchange

for his polite platitudes.

Just as he ignores how

the heels of your brogues

catch uneven cobblestone

as you approach, you

ignore the way his voice

catches as you leave.

Because it is summer,

you don’t notice how

late it is until youths in

clubwear fill your still-

bright carriage and one

in a soft leather jacket

jostles the Tesco roses

wilting in your arms.

Instinctively, you pull

them closer to you, as if

they were meant for

better than two days in

a stained coffee mug and

one at the bottom of a

bin ripping holes in the

liner. Grief distracts, so

when you exit the DART

station, you miss a step,

promptly slicing open

the papery skin of your

malleolus. And as you

note the same ruby that

marks your bouquet now

trickles down your ankle,

you wonder if this day

will leave you with a

scar, or just a poem.

Allison Thung is a poet and project manager from Singapore. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in ANMLY, Emerge Literary Journal, Brave Voices Magazine, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @poetrybyallison or at


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