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Image by Mariano Nocetti
Rowena a difficult mom
watches Cleo her difficult daughter
while complaining about the scent of chlorine
the persistence of pubic hair
the fungus of feet
to whoever will listen in this difficult town
when without warning Cleo takes off
for the deep end. She’s four.
Cleo splashes a rudimentary crawl.
Her legs dangle.
She’s tiny out there, an acorn with arms.
Half across the deep end she flails.
Rowena says “Oh shit” and runs to the ladder.
Lifeguard is on his feet, ready.
Rowena, poised to jump, shakes him off.
Water games stop.
Sunbathers sit up.
Alert, silent, we watch.
Thrashing like a paddlewheel boat
Cleo advances slightly faster than driftwood
to the ladder, and we hear her small voice:
“Mommy, I need to work on that.”
And we exhale as one, all one,
at the community pool.
Joe Cottonwood lives under redwood trees in La Honda, California dodging wildfires and playing with grandchildren. He is the author of the underground novel Famous Potatoes. His most recent book of poetry is Random Saints.