elementary backstroke

Alissa Simon (she/her); Washington, DC—

my hands, clenched against my thighs, sweep 

into sleepy circles drawn by my elbows to carry great bushels of water

soiled black by shade

on either side of my hips

only to then tip upwards, outwards, branching

the blue underbellies of my arms

the bleeding, ballpoint faces of my wrists 

to the fig tree

soldier, chicken, airplane

an adonis of a summer camp lifeguard 

spelled out the strokes for us

at eight i knew well enough how to swim

but i still indulged in the fantasy

of drowning, very gently

in 4 feet of lukewarm pool water

so as to be carried by him

cradled, limp as a maiden

into the sea-green haze of a want I did not know to name

but scratched along my back like concrete, like apple juice

all the same; chlorine burns

but

if she called me now

and told me she was coming 

to burn away the dusk bugs, watch figs blacken

uniformed in that one ratty shirt  – gone paper soft at the collar,

the spot of her wrist where she chickened out of a stick and poke

flexed against the wheel

ready to take off down albemarle street

i would know exactly how to undo these ministrations

keeping me afloat

i would know exactly what would happen next

once she drew me back to life

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