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Under the Raft

ISSUE:  Winter 1992
Backyard Pool. July. Yellow Rectangle Raft.
My sister and I like to play drowning and tea party—
see how long you can stay under.
With others we call it a tea party;
alone, it’s drowning.

I poke my head up
into the raft. The body on it
bounces me down.
In blue, I resist, arms and legs
sputtering like a water glider’s,
head thrashing back into the yellow.
The floating body
pushes me down.

who is on the raft? She is. Mom.
I can see her through
the air pillows,
cracked halves of black walnuts.
I’m turning blue
which the water likes: I match it, I’m company.
I’m a 3-D companion to the pool liner.

I hear a howl; it’s me, but sounds so off,
I’ve split into my you,
and my body is a place all sounds collect
when they’ve been used up.
The body drowns in sound,
no continuation—no connection—a jumble:
what it hears, it is; what it is,

at this depth. My eyes scan
the patterns on the pool’s bottom liner,
my fortune. There’s no future in it.
I’ve heard her warn, “Clean up
your forward crawl,”
but what were those words
until my body became sound?
And what was I?


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