Almost eight, Amy swims down the lane casually, in a zig-zag pattern,
kicking her feet so slowly they barely leave a wake,
eyes closed as her swim cap grazes the plastic lane divider,
calmly coming back to the center.
She arrives at the end and emerges from the pool, just like she’s supposed to.
While I reach out to her, parents huddle in the civic center in a small town in Texas,
praying that their child will emerge from the school just like they’re supposed to.
Amy walks to me, streaming water, and I hold her tight,
the wet warm imprint of her head on my torso,
my sleeves soaked where my arms hold her.
She moves away.
“Did you see my turn, mom?”
The dampness she left on my clothes
evaporates in the May heat.
All that is left now is a coolness on my skin
in the shape of her still whole and beloved body
and the engulfing grief and terror of having a child in America.
About the Poem
On May 24, as I learned about the shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, I was taking my second-grade daughter to swim lessons in California. This poem is a testament to the grief and fear that I felt, the empathy for the grieving families, and my own experience as a mother of a beloved child, knowing that my love is no different from any other mother’s love for her child.
About the Author
Margaret Paige is an educator and writer living in Sacramento, California with her kid and her cats.