water baby1
before I walked, I swam
by Barbara Ruth

the drowning woman’s story
opens in high summer
with Independence Day explosions and the manmade pools of Kansas
the water an astonishment of cold.
near 70 years ago.
did my mother really
throw me, ease me, coax me
into the open water?
what I remember is the backstroke.
Before I walked, I swam
and I looked up, through the wavy wet
sky as it came down to where I kicked
my heels stretched out and down
my arms rose up together
above my head.
did my mother teach me that
or did I always know?
now, I disdain the pool’s chlorine and tell myself
my buoyant breasts may save me yet
as I immerse in ocean
do my best to make
the shape of my one heart
do my best to save
my many-chambered heart
knowing, as I’ve always known
how apt I am to be taken out
by one sneaker way
or another.

IMAGE: Illustration from a version of The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley.

sleeping in sepia

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barbara Ruth writes at the convergence of magic and grit, Potowatomee and Jewish, fat and yogi, disabled and neurodivergent. She has performed her original work with Mother Tongue and Wry Crips Disabled Women’s Readers’ Theaters in the San Francisco Bay Area, taught in California Poets In the Schools in San Diego, co-conspired with DYKETACTICS! In Philadelphia, and blogged at NeuroQueer. She writes biomythography in poetry and prose, and has been working on a novel since before writing was invented. She is 70 and lives in San Jose, California, and is also a published photographer.

AUTHOR PHOTO: “Sleeping in Sepia,” self-portrait by Barbara Ruth.