I've always been afraid
of getting in any water that looks
like it will definitely go over
my head. Until third grade,
I used to be afraid to even stand
in the shower and let water run
over my head and face. Close your eyes,
I was instructed. But what does it mean
to fear drowning even on solid ground?
Nevertheless I tried learning to swim
once. The group instructor at the Y
gave us foam noodles and showed us
how to kick off. The first few times
she'd lead us down to the middle
of one lane then turn back around.
I can say I learned at least
how to float. But holding on to a rubber
board and trying to propel my body across
that deep, it's like I forgot how to breathe.
I stood up in a panic. The rest of the class
was learning to turn their heads: one
side first, then the other. On the far
end, children in bright suits jumped in,
paddling and stroking without fear.
Poet Luisa A. Igloria (Poetry Foundation web page, author webpage ) is Co-Winner of the 2019 Crab Orchard Open Competition in Poetry for her manuscript Maps for Migrants and Ghosts, forthcoming from Southern Illinois University Press in fall 2020. She is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. She is the author of What is Left of Wings, I Ask (2018 Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Prize, selected by former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey); Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015), Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (Utah State University Press, 2014 May Swenson Prize), Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She is a member of the core faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University which she directed from 2009-2015. In 2018, she was the inaugural Glasgow Distinguished Writer in Residence at Washington and Lee University. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.