A Poem Might Just Save Your Life (One Day)



this morning

there is a young woman sitting on a cold step

on the river’s edge

her back to me,

she stares across the brown green water

watching, smoking

perhaps worrying.


The past

or today

it floats away


all summer I had waited

too timid

or lacking motivation


or just a friend


But we went finally.


And I floated ahead

because the metal in your ankle joint weighed you down,

heavy like an anchor.

You called me to swim back to you


after all that time waiting there was no stopping,

going back.


but looking back

I was surprised to see

your chin so level with the water

as if dipping down,

going under.


Were you really floundering?


Idle directions shouted

lost on the breeze

my only thought to churn my icy legs

and get my skin up to the sun.


And the girl between us,

she floated lightly on a glass-eyed grin

neither with you nor with me,

her long tapered fingers skimming the rippled light,

I only wanted her closer

to fill the gap

because she was always mine.


Buoyant, watertight bag

gripped with shriveled fingers,

held my cellphone, keys, dry towel

but nothing crucial

In the end

the worry was never what might pull me down

but something else –


letting myself get small

too small

to fill up this wide body



for safety


in the end



distrusting lungs

that can and will deploy, expand and

Burn with a wild willfulness

that holds you up,

that makes you huge

that saves you


And later that first afternoon and further up the river,

the women scream

large milky white bodies heaved out into the middle

away from the rocks,

spiked grey hair and fat upper arms like a child’s water wings,

they shriek

as the water’s cold fingers take them down,



3 thoughts on “A Poem Might Just Save Your Life (One Day)

  1. Good Heavens, Beth. Wonderful poem!!! I’m not surprised – why I’m using all those exclamation points – but I’m excited about your work! So many things floated through my heart as I read it. It felt airy and bouyant, yet weighted, too. Fabulous, Beth. You must know how good this one is, don’t you?


  2. Whoa. I read this poem just as I was leaving my apartment and loved it. Today I went back and re-read it and I am genuinely floored, at reading it again. Yesterday I mostly appreciated the prose, the beautiful flowing of words….. like “what was that??” Today I am kind of obsessed with the rest of it. Physically, I’m flowing through through water continuously, But then ICE-water shock and under! I’m feeling every word…


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