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Ophélia watches the girl
spin down through the blue depths,
burrowing in until we see
just the tips of her toes
fire-engine red. I will do that,
she points, as the girl bursts
up through the cheek
of the pool face—nose slashed
shut against death. Gasping. Eyes bright. My girl
is not afraid
as she skims across the surface—
eyes goggled and fixed on her father
slipping like a devil
ray just below her
across the tiled pool floor. I have ripped
that one off my list:
Death by drowning. By tripping
into a pool. By tumbling into the lake.
By toppling out of a dinghy. By slow sink
into a watery bath. Before she was born, a family of five—
five!—drowned in the river
just feet from our house
made love, no, napped. The father
and two boys fell out of the flipping canoe
and when they did not pop up, the mother—
pregnant six months—plunged in. How
did this happen? I had to ask. It’s so shallow.
Couldn’t someone swim? But no,
it was the cold that snuffed them out—hot
as their bodies were in the dead
of French summer. Cold Water Shock. You gasp
and breathe in all that water
around you. And then again. And again. I imagine
the youngest peaceful, breathing
in the amniotic fluid. Until it, too, is not enough
as the soft body of the mother floats,
to the air. Wanting to be found. I looked up
“what happens to the fetus
of a drowning mother” and rapidly shrank
from the deluge of stories: mothers who drowned
was probably sleepy in the heat. Reaching
for her own nap. Maybe
laughing when they were tossed over
the side. Fumbling
for her phone for a shot. Waiting.
before she saw.
Saw the unmoved water gaze back.
As all around her
we breathed in.
Lucy Anderton’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Crazyhorse, Fence, The Iowa Review, Tin House, and Verse Daily, and her collection The Flung You was published by New Michigan Press in 2012. She and her partner are raising their daughter Ophélia in the south of France in a 500-year-old structure that has been a hospital, a brothel, and a wartime hiding place.
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