You are teaching your daughter to swim

You are teaching your daughter to swim


in open waters

though you don’t know the depth

of the lake at its centre; who might have died there,

whether the pike will scare her or bite her,

if the current will pull her down.


At the level of water, the mountains are higher.

The cold is a world she will walk to and enter

where deep mud is softer than skin.

Let the pebbles swim under her feet!

All the darkness beneath her


is answered by birds

and the trees will be tall and kind.

The sun will light up the water above her.

When there’s no ground left to stand on,

then she’ll fly.


Though the cold makes her teeth ache

she can take it. The rain cannot soak her,

the swan will not harm her.  No dead man

will reach out his hand. You will watch her

leaving the shore behind


and the current will flow

the right way. That day,

the water will hold her

and take her far from you.

Now let her go from you. Let go.



A poem by Clare Shaw,

Poet in Residence for the

BASPCAN 2018 International Child Protection Congress


To read more of Clare’s poems and to find out more about the Congress see our website:

BASPCAN Congress 2018














and the water holds you

and carries you

it stops you from going down


and occasional sun


Y Living things scare you –

their dark little nudges

you imagine them,


snake-like and toothy and eyeless.


there’s nothing makes sense

but your arms


the rhythm of you moving forwards

beat and stroke

and sun on the surface


ou are leaving the shore behind.