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Learning to Swim

drunk-alcoholism

Author: Meredith C.

When something’s dead, they tell me
it rests.
I don’t see that—I see mistaken black toes with tags
worming up from kicked over dirt
when it rains.

It comes back when you bury it alive,
they say, shaking a finger.
I believe you, I lie.

My own head
this little thing–
I popped off and dropped into a bottle
twisted the cap tightly around its neck
and hurled into the current.

It drifted to places I don’t remember
it drifted to places I’d long since left
it bobbed and floated on
from trembling hands at dusk
to sweat-drenched dreams at dawn.

I tried to hold the head under, I even untwisted the cap
and waited for the bubbles to emerge
for the mouth to fill and flow over, churning the body upside down—
the last of that little girl, until it sank
to settle motionless on the bottom.

I am a conundrum, a bloated baby with searching eyes
staring pickled from round walls in a sealed jar.
I am the same thing I gazed at, mouth hanging
till my mother dragged me away by the hand.
I am, I am, still choking on the water in the womb I swam away from.

And then all those years later, all eyes on me
to which I said, fuck you
and ran away with the first love I ever knew.

My cup ran over and I awoke a day later,
surfacing in a crowd of featureless faces and are you okay?
there’s too much blood in my alcohol system
they diagnose and prescribe while I fold them all into a tight square
and leave it in the bottom of my coffee cup.

Rest in peace, Doc, and then I am swimming
and when I get tired I float on my back
till my head hits the solid shore, and I sleep.

It comes back, they say
when you bury it alive.
I believe you now, I reply.

The dirt frozen hard, the water frozen still
the womb a broken bottle.
And the mind, that little thing, it’s something anyway–
because sometimes, when everything’s quiet
I can almost hear it kick.

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