Swimming Back
poems by Taylor Altman


Bikes lean against the sides of houses, wet
towels lie in heaps on screened porches,  
children abandon cups of lemonade  
and dolls and bury themselves in pools.  
There is no music.  
And if there were, it would have no words.  
Through a haze of streets and distances,  
the cry of a child being spanked.  
The only sound.  
In some second floor bathroom, a girl  
stares into a bathtub full of menstrual blood,  
contemplates her reflection darkly.  
In my cousin’s inflatable pool, I am five,  
my father has just died, and Sheila,  
the neighbor-girl, points to a dead bee  
on my chest. I look down. At first,
I don’t feel the sting, but when I do, there are  
no tears, no panic, just tweezers, ice  
swaddled in humid paper towels,  
and a pair of hands  
pushing me out into the yard again.  
And the summer afternoon goes on, unchanged.