A Miracle Somehow

Summer, 2012 / No. 28

Drowning seems inevitable,

even with all of her swimming badges

sewn onto old suits,

and a lifeguard whistle around her neck.

It’s not that she’s afraid of water—

she’s not.

And it’s not that she can’t swim—

she can.

She knows exactly how to keyhole her arm

underneath the water,

kicking from her hips,

toes pointed out behind her,

she knows how to curl her knees into her chest

in H.E.L.P.—

a clunky acronym for the tiny ball

you wrap yourself in if the boat tips

and the water is cold.

But even with the red-and-white singlet

over her bathing suit,

LIFEGUARD spelled in all-caps across her chest,

it seems impossible not to drown.

She can’t imagine that something

wouldn’t wrap itself around her legs

or her arms, pull her down,

hold her under,

until the water fills her lungs,

her voice disappearing in bubbles

that might never make it to the surface.

So every time she makes

it back to the dock,

her suit dripping and darkening

the sun-bleached wood,

towel wrapped first in a turban,

then around her waist and tucked into itself,

it’s a small victory,

a miracle somehow.