When my daughter and I were drowning,
there was no choice of saving her or me;
there was only surviving.
Her eight year old arm
frantic, grabbing my shoulder,
my body disappearing beneath
the world of breath.
Everyone around us was
enjoying the summer sun
as the cool creek water
pulled us toward its netherworld.
I could not call for help
as my mouth was silenced
with the language of wet things,
drowned stones and skeletons
tucked along the riverbed.
At last, my husband saw us
and swam to her, pulling
her struggling body to safety.
For a moment I thought
I would slip into that underworld,
surrender my breath to the world above,
live among the buried remnants
where earth is current and song.
But finally I startled and swam
to the rocks, which I knelt upon,
my body heaving as if I’d just
left a great burden upon an altar.