Old Man at the Pool

Foot 3
By Donna Hilbert

What I knew about beauty,
the summer I turned ten,
I learned from books—
how Mammy squeezed Scarlett
into her corset for that famous
hand-span waist.
I was shaped like a milk carton.
I wore my mother’s old merry widow
under my bathing suit
to push me up and cinch me in.

In the pool I played water babies,
pretending I was a creature
with no earthly life.
I sat on the bottom of the pool
until the need for air
propelled me to the surface
where I would turn over and over,
somersault into exhaustion.

I don’t remember his face, just the gray
wires that grew down his belly
disappearing into his black trunks.
This old man, who held me
like a bowling ball,
his thumb in my crotch,
fingers splayed across
the bald arc of my pelvis,
this man who tossed me
into deep, deep water.

From Deep Red

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