BY SARAH FATHIMA MOHAMMED
My brown body dipped into the water.
The other children, foreheads of blonde silk,
whose thighs my thighs brushed
on accident—apology’s thrush
slicking my mouth.
A secret: we dreamt of this, my mother
and I, we dreamt
of coming to this country and being held
in a warm pool. We dreamt of water
that blushed wild as a sky, of bringing
our lips to it, a sea
sloshing in our hands.
Climbing onto the pool ledge, my chest,
shriveled in water
with asthma, swamped in sweat.
The teacher glided
through the pool, smooth as a gull,
her eyes like blue suns.
Tattooed along the flank of
her foot: keep moving.
I wanted to touch the tattoo, to feel
how it might pulse
in my hand like a heart. Instead I waited
for my lungs to swell like lungs.
I murmured ruh
even though I wanted to shout it.
Let this blessing
bring back my breath to me.
The teacher’s ankle
What, some kind of terrorist ritual.
We, my mother and I, crossed
an ocean—so much water—for this.
We dreamt of lovely
things, the ease of muscle—keep moving
flooding the teacher gently
like an oily current, her body listening.
Tattoo gleaming, soft as an eye.