Poetry Sunday: “Swimming to New Zealand,” by Diana Goetsch

Swimming to New Zealand

Once or twice in life you find a woman
you’d swim the ocean for. What are you doing?
friends will ask, as you perfect your stroke,
meantime pitying everyone outside of love.
Your only obstacle, the blue Pacific—
where your sun sinks, she’s dressing in the morning,
and when the dawn comes reaching back around,
turning up the volume in your city,
she’s drawing blinds, removing her make-up.
If you were Gatsby you would build a mansion
in some cove off the Tasmanian sea
and throw parties to lure her in. You’re not
of course—though nothing’s impossible,
except life without her, and so you swim.


First published in Plume. From Nameless Boy (Orchises Press 2015) and published with permission of the press. Nameless Boy can be ordered here.



Diana Goetsch is the author of three full-length collections of poems—most recently Nameless Boy (Orchises Press 2015)—and four prizewinning chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Gettysburg Review, The Iowa Review, and Best American Poetry. From 2015-16 she wrote “Life in Transition,” a weekly column appearing at The American Scholar online and archived here. Among her honors are fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Donald Murray Prize, and a Pushcart Prize. Diana resides in New York City, where she teaches meditation and writing.

Listen to Garrison Keillor reading “Swimming to New Zealand” here.


Poet’s Note

This poem was inspired by a woman I met five years ago, who was living in New Zealand. In real life, we had many more obstacles than just “the blue Pacific,” so I’m pretty sure that’s a metaphor. Likening myself to Gatsby may have been a less accurate metaphor; by the time the poem appeared in Nameless Boy I had changed my name and was living as a woman. Garrison Keillor subsequently read it in The Writer’s Almanac, attributing it to Douglas Goetsch, who didn’t exist. Then it was published in New Zealand of all places, in braille, under the name Diana—my first female byline. In all the flux, what remains unchanged is my passionate love for women. That love—along with the question, Who would want to be with me?—was my biggest fear when I decided to transition.

Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Sharon Wood Wortman January 15, 2018 at 2:50 am

    Thank you, but I prefer to be a reader at the moment, another way of saying a close listener.