not waving but drowning

Caitlin Roach

after Not Waving but Drowning


it was a small body, it was August on my knees I thought
                        I heard a small mouth quip, a trick you told me, a grating tic
            now I spoke this paranoia around like a gentle choke.

if you let it, the body will purge itself out of control.  bloaty lids puffed
                        so shut not even light can enter.                                         


               a baby quakes in my arms and I cannot fill its mouth.                       
                                    —such a small body, heavier than even all that water.
               I sing and still wails hurl out a throat no mouth can shut.  not even water.


how long already you’ve been so quiet.           the man whose mouth sang you
                         to your death—           I dreamt the figure up.
                                                             I didn’t turn around.                                                                       


wet agent, dream cast—     the bleeding heart, three-parted
             hunches so far it forecloses completely
                                      its role a parent plant.     no scarlet throat
             to lap up the nectar.    no forked tongues flicking.           

all these bodies bent over themselves.    too late to disgorge with any mouth.

the silt long-parted, fractures along the cleavage planes
long-cleaved.    always there is another body
                                      bending toward its edge.


this morning, a small body turned to catch by chance
            my gaze and decided not to jump.

to think we are the only creatures in conflict with god.                                                                   


              the throat spasms in a plea to seal off the path to the lungs,
              a threatened vacuum.
                        —pink-backed, wild anemone 
                                                webs its flinty curse so slowly
                         you can’t even hear the sinking.

the throat relaxes.        water flows to the lungs.


I am kneeling as a child thrashes in the tub, its small mouth naming
            each tiny captive bobbing out.    I am waiting

 for your voice to bend around some corner of the house.      I dream it
            curdling inside your crimson yolk
                                                blue-fanged and teething.