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Under Water


ISSUE:  Summer 1998
The bloodshot toddler in my daughter’s swim class
drifts again and again under water—
she likes it so much down there.
She can hardly obey the requirement
to keep her hands
on the edge of the deep end.
With her mother after class
I’ve seen her breaststroke underwater
several feet at a time.
She comes up, composed,
blond bangs streaming.

My daughter still hesitates,
even in the instructor’s arms,
refuses to go under.
I’m hoping practice will turn her
amphibious
like the blond girl.
At night she cries out
and comes into my bed
and won’t fall asleep again
until she has my hand.

When I close my eyes
at what used to be my favorite time,
the drift into speaking dreams,
the release from gravity

and the thousand rules,
I see the child
written up in all the papers
who at 2 1/2
was made to switch parents.
I see her groping the new house,
the new parents,
for her old ones.
It’s as though she is swimming under water
and can’t come up.

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