Drowning seems inevitable,
even with all of her swimming badges
sewn onto old suits,
and a lifeguard whistle around her neck.
It’s not that she’s afraid of water—
And it’s not that she can’t swim—
She knows exactly how to keyhole her arm
underneath the water,
kicking from her hips,
toes pointed out behind her,
she knows how to curl her knees into her chest
a clunky acronym for the tiny ball
you wrap yourself in if the boat tips
and the water is cold.
But even with the red-and-white singlet
over her bathing suit,
LIFEGUARD spelled in all-caps across her chest,
it seems impossible not to drown.
She can’t imagine that something
wouldn’t wrap itself around her legs
or her arms, pull her down,
hold her under,
until the water fills her lungs,
her voice disappearing in bubbles
that might never make it to the surface.
So every time she makes
it back to the dock,
her suit dripping and darkening
the sun-bleached wood,
towel wrapped first in a turban,
then around her waist and tucked into itself,
it’s a small victory,
a miracle somehow.