by Jessica Purdy
—after a photograph by Phyllis Meredith
I drive through the springtime
asphalt chunks in the potholes
scanning neighborhoods for children
who might be picking up rocks
and looking under them
or scraping skin against bark
where later that night it will sting
in the bath as they scrub the dirt
from the hollows of their ankles
since I’m longing to be back
in those underwater days where
I could just jump and be silent
hearing a muffled heart through
water pressed against my ears
arms plush and without weight
I would watch the strands of hair
float in a corona around my head
through sweet filtered light
so much like lemonade
that squinting made my mouth water.
PHOTO: West Hartford, Connecticut, town pool, 2014. Taken by Phyllis Meredith with an underwater Nikonos Film Camera and Delta 400 film.
AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo was taken by my photographer friend, Phyllis Meredith. The photo is of her daughter swimming underwater and was the inspiration for my poem and my memories of swimming as a child.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My friend Phyllis Meredith and I have done several photo/poem collaborations and this is one of them. The photo really took me back into my child body and allowed me to remember what it was like to feel weightless and beautiful without knowing about the responsibilities of adulthood. In the poem, I’m an adult, but the feelings of scrubbing dirt from my ankles in the bath and of floating underwater with my eyes open all came to the surface while looking at the photograph.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jessica Purdy teaches Poetry Workshops at Southern New Hampshire University. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. In 2014 she was nominated by Flycatcher for Best New Poets and Best of the Net. She was a featured reader at the Abroad Writers’ Conference in Dublin, Ireland, 2015. Recently her poems have appeared in Local Nomad, Bluestem Magazine, The Telephone Game, The Tower Journal, The Cafe Review, Off the Coast, The Foundling Review, and Flycatcher. Previously, her poems have appeared in Literary Mama, Halfway Down the Stairs, What is Home (the 2007 Portsmouth Poet Laureate program’s publication), Analecta, and The Beacon Street Review. Her chapbook, Learning the Names, was published in 2015 by Finishing Line Press.