The game is to see who can stay submerged
the longest. More than breath-control, it involves
constantly propelling our underdeveloped buoyant
bodies downward. Our arms are outstretched
condor wings pushing upward. Our legs are half-
enfolded and helplessly dangling jellyfish tentacles.
We face each other in the dappled glow of the pool’s
washed-out blue and bait each other as only merman
can. Escaping bubbles leak out; my ears ring
with my breath-deprived heartbeat.
zip-sledded the previous summer. The boat circled
far and large with the board skimming behind
while I, bucked off, chattered in the cold, cold,
brown lake water. Feather-limbed lakemen circled
beneath, brushing my legs and fingering my ankles.
Kicking at them made them madder or meaner.
The distant boat didn’t hear me screaming, swallowing
the bitter fishy water.
I know this feeling,
the one that makes me run from the top
of the stairs, down the dark hallway, past five
dark doorways to mine at the end. Whatever
is there is surprised by how quickly I can
turn on my bedroom light and scramble to the far
corner of my bed, nestled in the room’s corner
farthest from the door and closet. I hold my breath
until all is quiet in the house.
The game is
to stare at each other through the chlorine-
sting. He is two years younger and kicks off
the bottom. Thankful, I surface right behind.
[Check out other original poems here.]