Because our mothers taught the swan dive & the snap of swim cap,
the flip turn, its whoosh & kick in deep end. Because we learned the butterfly
when our suits filled out & our shoulders grew strong but we loved best
the weeks at Lake Chatauqua, our mothers drinking gin & gossiping
in espadrilles & party dresses, our fathers grilling store-bought patties
to a crisp. When a girl went out into the water there, you couldn’t say for certain
what would seize her. We lifeguarded that whole summer at the reservoir
& while the toddlers flapped in water wings, while the pre-teens called out Marco-
Polo, flopping & kicking in the drinking water damned to serve
the three surrounding counties, while no one ever drowned
we practiced our heimlichs & our mouth to mouth. We weren’t the prettiest
girls and we weren’t the smartest. We knew how to haul a body from the water,
when to throw a life vest & when to leave the boy for dead.
We sunned ourselves on beaches made of trucked-in sand, the same stuff
filling playground sandboxes in all the villages around. We believed in the elegant
escape & so we packed our swim trunks, our beach towels & our novels.
We gassed up our cars & hightailed it for the coast. Before our mothers
could call us to our dinner tables, we sped off down the forest highway—
its logging trucks, its bait & beer shops, already going out of season.
Nancy Reddy’s work has appeared in Smartish Pace, Memorious, Best New Poets 2011, Best of the Net 2011, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is currently a doctoral candidate in composition and rhetoric.