Swim Lessons

by Josie Sigler

Grandma left to get the towels, Jimmie
and me on the muddy bank of Uncle Ed’s
back cut in the shade of the old boat house:

Jimmie crows, Grandma only has to teach
you to swim because your momma is a drunk.
His daddy, my uncle, tried summer before

throwing me off the rickety wooden dock, all
the peonies in the yard glaring at him as I fell,
slow-motion, to the swallowing water.

My mother laughing as my head surfaced, hair
pushed down like a drenched rat but when I was
a baby, she put me on my back in the water gentle,

said "find the octopus on the ceiling, white-pool ceiling
with dark beams, and I searched like something
fed on white, but that was before Jimmy your momma

is a drunk-skunk and I forgot how, still,
my grandmother waist-deep in the murk, the firm,
uncompromising hands under the water, it don’t matter

who teaches you, you gotta learn her grip so tight
on one forearm it almost erases Grandma only loves
you because your mother doesn’t and the sky

is deep, has color, is a wound---the line of her eyes
cut through his words relieving a tight-chestedness
the loose thread of a body in water recalls.

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This page contains a single entry by Department of English published on November 27, 2007 11:47 AM.

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