Poolside – my daughter climbs onto a raft
frightened by the water’s sloshing
she calls to me, begging to get out.
In an instant, all is hazy
pulls me into my childhood,
I am there.
A rare day, family outing, summer at the Dog River
my siblings and I playing in the shallow water
trying not to fall on the moss-slippery rocks
we guide our toy ship carefully as it bobs above the current.
Dad hauls an inflatable boat into the river
we climb aboard as instructed,
my mother, scared of open water, in with us, too
my father/outside/holding the rope/connected to the boat like a fetus
walks beside us in shallows.
In the present-my breathing comes faster,
sweat slides from my armpits, from everywhere.
in the flashback, my father, the leader, pulls us ahead
close to the waterfall he had warned us to stay away from.
He leads us up to the mouth of the waterfall/frothing below
my sister is screaming/my brother so small
my mother, her voice shaking, pleads for return
I look up, his young daughter, the eldest, and witness his eerie grin.
I remain silent, as he asks us all,
“What would happen if I let go of you now?”
I am frozen/unable to speak/to move.
His voice softly now,
“I would never let you go over; Daddy’s stronger than the river.”
I examine his calves braced apart
muscular and hairy
his arms taught, holding the river from swallowing us-
if he wants.
I look over the edge; see the violent crash of water at the bottom
he lets out the line – just a fraction
than the river’s.
I start to whimper/my heart’s beat the wings of a hummingbird
my sister has peed and is bellowing as loud as the river’s rush
my mother/silent/eyes closed/unreadable.
Slowly, deliberately, he turns and pulls us back to shore
I leap/run as fast as I can/my feet/cut on the rocks
It’s not the first/last time I will run from him.
I am crying/hurtling back
into the present.
I pause for a moment/confused/then realize
I am no longer a child, but a mother now
I reach for my daughter, pull her out of the pool and hug her tight
And whisper I love yous/I’m sorrys/let the tears fall for little girls.
Elizabeth Wall is a writer in the Pacific Northwest. She finds required meetings that could be handled through an email tiresome and loves to hike and write. She was recently published in issue six of “Book of Matches” and had two poems in the inaugural issue of “The Nuances of New-Age Feminism.” she has upcoming poems in: “When it Rains it Pours Anthology” by Kind of a Hurricane Press And Musing Publication: Winter Dreams. She can be found at www.writingamidlife.com and on Twitter @writingamidlife