Claudia Emerson

(13 January 1957 / Chatham, Virginia)

Lifeguard - Poem by Claudia Emerson

She perches high on the stand, gleaming whistle
dangling, on her suit a dutiful,

faded red cross. Mine her only life
to guard, she does for a while watch

the middle-aged woman who has nothing better
to do than swim laps in the Y's indoor pool

on a late Friday afternoon. I am slow,
though, boring, length after predictable

length of breaststroke or the duller lap
of elementary backstroke perfectly

executed within the taut confines
of the brightly buoyed lane. So she abandons me

to study split-ends, hangnail, wristwatch,
until—the body of the whistle cupped

loosely in her palm—her head nods toward
shallow dreams. I've never felt so safe in my life,

making flawless, practiced turns, pushing, invisible
to reenter my own wake, reverse it.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, May 28, 2018

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