Shabbona Swimming Pool

Poem By Cynthia Gallaher

I feel warmth
from hot water pipes,
as I lean against the wall
to pull up my swimsuit.
Locker doors, pink as grapefruits,
wriggle like freshly-caught salmon.
I imagine painting high on the ceiling-
glossy souvenir plates
from Florida,
oversized seashells,
faceless and exotic,
revealing thin ribbons of flesh like
lingerie straps of a woman
as she runs for a bus.

I change,
to a world of rubber, cold water
and chlorine,
where I’ve vowed to carve my body
with wet breath,
and a thousand gestures of arms,
breast, back, kick, crawl.
Tons of cares dip beneath me,
at the same time reject me,
keeping me afloat,
like some branch fallen in a river.

Chicago’s January,
my lungs pant
a reminder of my birth,
in mud and bark and snow,
so unlike Chief Shabbona himself,
old, wise,
who swam tirelessly,
in rivers twice as old, nearby.

I see him rise, wet,
into the forest,
returning with a deer dragged
on a travois.
They move together
through deep white crystals,
back to his people’s camp.
And now, whatever I’ve gathered
from these waters,
I can only take back
to the showers,
hissing like radiators,
catching my body
in the mirror
on my way
to my quilt-covered
bed,
where an indian waits
in a book
that I read.

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