by Gabrielle Langley

At the age of five
I played along
the water’s scalloped
My spindly legs
the salty waves.
The universe turned
on tiny ankles,
trembling and wet,
in search of shells
and fiddler crabs.
What did I know then
of drowning,
the difference
between strawberry daiquiris
and straight whiskey,
of grocery lists
and credit cards,
of ashtrays filled
to overflowing,
the burn of salt water,
or of the waves
that rise to swallow
small children?

PHOTO: Recent photo of the author swimming in a friend’s pool (Houston, Texas).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As a child, circa 1968, I visited family friends in Mexico with my parents. In true Mad-Men-era style, while attending a beachside party in Acapulco,  all of the grownups had spent the day sipping unknown quantities of rum drinks from coconut shells. While swimming in the ocean, under the questionable supervision of the adults around me, I was suddenly pulled down below the water’s surface by one of Acapulco’s infamous undertows. I can recall the event as if it were yesterday, that helpless feeling of being swallowed up unexpectedly, and the merciless burn of inhaling salt water into your lungs.  The only reason I am alive to submit this poem today is due to the exceptionally strong and sharp-eyed lifeguard who saw me pulled under and was able to out-muscle the waves to reach me.  Ironically, I have always been drawn towards anything having to do with water, and I still love swimming!  Coincidentally, I am also working on a manuscript of water-themed poetry.  “Tide” is the manuscript’s most recent entry.

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Gabrielle Langley
was recently featured in the Huffington Post as one of Houston’s important emerging poets (“Five Poets You Need to Know About,” HuffPost 11/23/2015). A recipient of the Vivian Nellis Memorial Award for Creative Writing, an ARTlines national poetry finalist, and a jury selected poet for Houston Poetry Fest (2015), her work has appeared in a variety of literary journals. She is also an editor for Red Sky, Sable Books’ poetry anthology addressing violence against women scheduled for release in 2016. During the day, Ms. Langley works as a mental health professional.  To safeguard her own mental health, she writes poetry and dances Argentine tango at night.