My suit was blue, or maybe red with tiny pink polka dots
and a string around my neck I couldn’t tie alone.
Who can remember such things? I do remember
clutching the orange Styrofoam kickboard
for dear life, paddling my feet with twice the vigor
necessary to move forward in water, nothing
like the mermaid I wanted to be. Week
four of swimming lessons at the YMCA,
my classmates, evil, spoiled doctors’ kids,
sat on the pool’s edge, laughing at whatever
it is third-graders laugh at: rules, each other, poor girls
exerting too much energy to move 12 feet, my failure
to graduate from using a floatation device. Water
beyond the bath was foreign to me.
They all had in-ground pools and parents
who could swim, fathers who held them
horizontal while they went through the motions
until they could survive alone.
I could only concentrate all my attention
on not going under.