Monday, April 15, 2013

Tuesday Poem - The Deep End by Ali Alizadeh

The Deep End


It was pleasant. The cool
evanescent sensations

on my chest. The laughter
of my cousins. All of us

wading in the shallow end
under the hypothetical gaze

of chitchatting parents
enjoying respite from

the bombing raids, this scene
of kids’ water play at my uncle’s

in Tehran. Mummy somewhere
in the background, my father

there too. Warm, effervescent
stuff. Add in ice cubes

bubbly drinks, juicy cherries
on foldout table by the rim

of the pool, and dissonant
babble of wet children. Why

did I stray away towards the deep
end? I knew I couldn’t swim.


The summertime bliss
of a child’s inexperience, my boy’s

hairless body, a slate
clean of all but the most

primal connotations. But where
was ‘love’ – of parents, uncle

my own – when I felt my grasp
slip from the tiles at the edge

of the pool? Had my sociable
guardians’ passion to prattle superseded

the chore of guarding me? Perhaps
they were gossiping about someone’s

daughter losing her suitor, money
wasted on a despised relative’s

fortunately failed venture,
the opulent house purchased

by a favoured relative, and hoping
to awe everyone by finally migrating

to the West – just as my feet
slipped over the drop into the deep

end. Water swamped my nostrils,
ears, mouth. I was drowning.


My father fished me out. Did he
think it normal that little boys be

curious, reckless, tempting
death? Yes, but I never told him

that in my brief descent
I’d seen underwater the azure

of the pool’s walls and
nothing else. No maritime beasts,

no eels or octopi of Captain Nemo’s
abyss (as promised by a book

Mummy had given me) no light
or angels, no finality of an end

(as divined by my grandmother’s
Islam.) Only an absolute, monochrome

void. I’ve never told my father
I’d sunk into the infinite emptiness

of dying. Later he dried his hands,
resumed the talk about his job,

his plans to move us from War-torn
Iran to the West. I coughed up

water, shivered in the folds of the towel
and withdrew. I didn’t care for

– and could never again really care for –
the glass of sugary cold sherbet

Mummy had poured for me.

This poem comes from Ali's wonderful book Ashes in the Air (UQP) which was short listed for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards in 2012.


  1. Wonderful, Ali. Just enough lightness of touch, childish rememberence, and serious sinking. x

  2. Its very profound isn't it and works on so many levels or appears to, to me...the child's experience of near drowning
    'Why did I stray away towards the deep
    end? I knew I couldn’t swim.' seems to refer to a number of important events...regret for the passing of childhood, the realisation that Nemo doesn't work in the real world and the shift from East to West. Thanks for posting this Jen and thanks is excellent.

  3. Memorable moment(s) captured in these lines -- the way innocence bleeds into hard reality... I like this very much, and it resonates especially as I'm thinking today so much of Sarah Broom's poem "All my life" at the hub in December.

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