The Swim Team Candlestick

My senior year of high school I joined the school’s swim team

Not because I particularly liked the idea of spending my afternoons

mindlessly swimming laps in a public pool.

Or the smell of chlorine in my hair

And well…. everywhere.

I joined because if I hadn’t

The team wouldn’t have had enough men to compete that year.

The year was 2016

The year of starving myself

The year of graphic Tees

The year of random hookups with faceless strangers in the dark

because I wasn’t brave enough to shine yet.

The boy who stole glances at the others in the locker room

Too afraid to say hello

Or what’s up?

Or I love you.

The boy who only enjoyed gym class because he got to see Max Paternitti

How peculiar it was that we ended up in the same gym class

Every year.

His smile when he would pick me for his team

and the way he’d smack my ass on the way to the locker room


If he was trying to make me fall in love

Then it was working.

After 4 years of falling for any guy who would spare me a second look

At least swim team taught me how to stay afloat.

And I’m not saying I particularly liked the person I was back then

Or his lap time

But it was a spark

Or the beginning of a flame

To ignite a fire that wouldn’t burn til many years later

And I’m writing this poem wondering if he’s well

Or if he still remembers me.

Or if I can still swim as fast as I once did

And I heard he’s an actor in California now

And that he’s still a vegan

And I wonder if he’s happy

I wonder if they’re all happy.

Jared, Wesley, Matthew, or Alex.

Or any man who’s memory got me through college

And the hope that somewhere guys like them might like guys like me.

And some dreams can’t be extinguished by a swimming pool

And they say insanity is defined by doing the same thing over and over

and expecting different results

But I doubt they meant love

Or swimming laps

Because sometimes practice makes perfect

And failure is the best kind of practice.

So I will practice breathing in and out

Until the day I fail

Until they lay me in a river

And set me ablaze

But know that I refuse to hide my face


I am my own Northern star at the moment

Until someday a man writes me a new one

But stars don’t just shine into the night

They burn away the dawn

And I will burn and burn

But not into ash


No fire’s heat will reduce my bones to dust

I will come back stronger every time just to spite every man who said I never would

And that means you too dad

I am a candle stick that will never burn away

I will remain unmelted

6 feet deep at the bottom of a swimming pool

Til the pressure makes my ears pop

And my heart stop

I am the boy who survived every time you tried to kill me

The boy who rose from the ashes every time

Who swam the distance to be here today

And you should know

That I’m just getting warmed up

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