★ ★ ★ ★


Image by Mariano Nocetti

Community Pool

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.


  1. Anonymous

    Never pass by a Cottonwood poem. They are so real.

  2. Barbara Eknoian

    Never pass by a Cottonwood poem. They are so real.

    • George Franklin

      Another excellent Joe Cottonwood poem. Well done!

  3. Anonymous

    Great poem! I was holding my breath.

  4. Anonymous

    And I want those potatoes. Do I have to go underground?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.