To Swim

To SwimDear water, I loved you best
back then—my upside-down
house, kinder than sidewalks
or too-high branches, the bent red bike
that tipped me to the street.
Blue more blue and the quiet
more quiet, where I could be
the anhingas I’d seen, floating and diving,
there & gone & there,
swift as fists or Sunday school angels
parting the clouds of heaven.
I learned because my mother was afraid,
knew canals and pools, the eager sea
as so many places a child
could drown. I learned
because she loved me, and I fell
like Alice into somewhere else,
my feet leaving tiles or a motorboat’s side
to ride on almost nothing. Because she was
afraid I called myself
a bird, a fish, and because
she loved me I tried
to be a boat, and grew myself
to fear and love until they
became like children, mine, twins
who looked so much alike
I could hardly tell them apart
or ever hold them close enough.

(From Keeper. Thanks to Ernie Hilbert for posting this on e-verse radio, as well as the New York Times Arts Beat blog.)

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