gareth lloyd ball painting
by Vincent Francone


He sits laughing and gray, a rejoinder in the wait,
my father, years removed from a lifetime smoking;
a hat trick belcher, coffee never far,
baseball jersey on his back denoting Chicago birth
though his years since the seventies were spent
in the suburbs of a state once removed from mine.


I’m all of nine, a bundle of curls
bug-eyes and boney-legged
jumping into the deep end
unaware that I can’t swim.

The bottom is cotton-packed mute
and furious bubbles. I swig
chlorine-treated water.
A hand bigger than any beast
plunges, grasps my wet head
yanks me to surface.

When my eyes shake off the sting
they refocus on a giant
in bathing trunks, cold water
dripping from his nose
onto my body shivering below.

IMAGE: “Swimmer in Yellow,” painting by Gareth Lloyd Ball (1990). Prints available at


Vincent Francone
 is a writer from Chicago whose memoir, Like a Dog, was published in the fall of 2015.  He won first place in the 2009 Illinois Emerging Writers Competition (Gwendolyn Brooks Award) and is at work on a collection of poems and stories. Visit to read his work or say hi.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO: The author at Miller’s Pub in Chicago.