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Your body forcing itself to the surface— / The breath of air, loving daggers in your lungs.

LEARNING HOW TO SWIM IN A STOLEN OCEAN

jump
verb

1. to push oneself off a surface and into the air by using the muscles in one’s legs and feet
2. (of a person) make a sudden involuntary movement in reaction to something that causes sur-prise or shock

Jump, my father says—
Much easier than the meander,
The cool stroll into a boundless body
Bursting with the memory salt brings.

Jumping, my father explains, patiently, lovingly—
Does not give the water time to realize
What or who has happened, only when.
No how. The where reverberates in ripples.

The why is never answered, is always answering—
When a body hits that body,
Embraces that body,
Becomes one with that body.

sink
verb

1. go down below the surface of something, especially of a liquid; become submerged
2. gradually decrease or decline in value, amount, quality, or intensity

After you jump, you will sink, my father continues—
There is no land below, just as there is none throughout.
The swirling endlessness of the deep
Will pull, will beckon, will be deliciously inescapable.

But sinking, my mother interjects, gives you clarity—
The seducing abyss will whisper into your skin,
Will tell you where your desire lies,
Whether your desire lies.

The pressure of the water will create faults—
The floor of your body will crack and
Threaten to break, but you must remember
The bodies that already litter the ocean floor.

claw
verb

1. make one’s way with difficulty by hauling oneself forward with one’s hands
2. try desperately to move or remove something with the hands

When you refuse to sink, claw, my mother cries—
Fiercely, bravely, stubbornly,
With a strength you do not think you have,
Grasp what cannot be grasped.

Claw, my mother continues, pleadingly—
The ancestors below will forgive you
Using their ghosts as reminders,
As learning, as survival, as

Your body forcing itself to the surface—
The breath of air, loving daggers in your lungs.
Survey your surroundings. Recognize your place.
Your body always knows its way home.

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