life saver

all summer we played the drowning game.
faced down in the pool. held our breath
until the water turned purple as a bruise around us.
teeth like strips of mint gum
we chewed our mouths wild & white.
one neighbor fell victim to air
& became a flotation device. we took turns 
filling him with breath. 
when one of us wouldn't wake up
we dropped a life saver candy 
into the bobbing water & let 
the sugar bring them back to life.
backyard resurrections. clapping as 
we inhaled the sticky humid afternoon.
i swam through so many cavities:
all round & "O-ing." got my leg 
snagged on worry & emptied myself 
of all language. spoke to dead whale ghosts
& sharks lost in rivers. three neighbor bones 
jostling at the pool's blue bottom.
we left them there as reminders of
what can happen-- played with them like 
any other toy. brought a pelvis to the surface
& tossed it far off saying, "race you to it."
could never find the skulls though--
it was as if they became 
their own pools elsewhere. everyone has
another person swimming in their skull
it's just for some it's more literal 
than others. my swimmer mostly leaves me alone
with the exception of thursdays when
he's most lonely & knocks on the pool wall
as if anyone can hear it. i pretend
not to hear him. life is a series 
of strategic neglects. i miss drowning
but it's no fun alone. you need a town's worth 
of toes watching from the edge. if not
it's too mundane. saving yourself
is so unglamorous. i do it almost 
every night. cough up life savers 
onto my own kitchen floor. you can't be
a childhood again. you just have to 
take what you learned from drowning
& apply it elsewhere. i hold my breath
when i wash the dishes. i float 
on my back even when there's
no water.

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