V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics




My brother claimed first the motel room we would
        all later share; on the farthest edge

of the farthest bed, he hunched over his guitar,
        the red Mustang’s solid body unplugged—

his songless strumming thin, antagonistic.
        Just outside the door in a folding chair,

my father studied again the intricate
        vasculature of his map, and my mother,

who could not swim but who no doubt would have
        saved me anyway, looked up now and again

from her novel with a languid wave.
        The only one it mattered to, I would have

had to beg for it—the neon pool glowing,
        moths at first dark exhausting themselves against

the humming promise of the water vacancy 
        now tinted the pale green of ink—illegible.

My favorite place to be was just beneath
        the surface, the underwater pool lights

coming on with night. Weightless, I hovered
        around a dome of convex glass, a cool,

thick hemisphere not much bigger than the splay
        of my hand—and imagined deadlights

set into the massive hull of a ship
        adrift, windless, my family on its deck—

my mother’s muffled call disappearing
        after them into those fathomless sources

of small light I did not want to give up,
        plenty of air yet in the joyous hold of my lungs.

© by Claudia Emerson


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