like bone trees
or trunk roads to nowhere.
Each knee a knot,
a congested junction.
major topography—rippling midlands, hills
and clefts; foothills to rising torso ridges.
extensions of dirt tracks.
arteries. My heart
a henge, encircled.
This blue-marked map of skin.
After watching your sister nearly drown
in a hotel pool, you were afraid
to go under. But summer called, its heat
and its rituals, and you would be driven
to the place where the river bent.
The Pompy washed sunlight ripple by ripple.
If you made it to the float, you were
old enough to be a cool kid, though ten years
later you knew the cool kids never swam—only
drank beer, smoked pot in stolen bongs
round the back of somewhere else.
Kingfishers darted a blue that nylon palely mimicked.
Killdeer flew overhead. You wrote letters
at midnight to made-up people. You tell me
it was freedom without threat: even the river
never dreamt of drowning. You tell me,
and your face lights with the laughter of water,
with the memories of a richer sun.
Despite being certified as disabled at age 16, Jennifer A. McGowan has published poetry and prose prolifically on both sides of the Atlantic, including in The Rialto and Pank. She has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and been highly commended in many competitions. Jennifer’s chapbooks are available from Finishing Line Press; her first collection, The Weight of Coming Home, is from Indigo Dreams Publishing. Her website is http://www.jenniferamcgowan.com .