Eileen Lannan Poetry Prize, 2017

Drowning Lessons

by Kelsey Hoff
 
One, Two, Three—and the mothers dunk their babies under.
Water and words merge into promise; I will make you unsinkable.
 
Jumbo-size precepts for a little girl’s hand: Straps two fingers wide.
Your body is a waterpark. I’d rather you not splash around like that.
 
Some wisdom is matriarchal, things learned before you can remember.
Bask in subtle tones. They may call you witch. Keep your flesh pure.
 
Wake with a song and go to bed praying. Start at your toes and tense
each muscle, then relax. Imagine melting into the mattress.
 
Another voice teaches you to sing more beautifully. Note latches onto breath.
Picture a piece of RNA coupling with the strand. Stretch it until it shakes.
 
Take pleasure in perfecting you rhythm, diving from decent heights.
Save your breath for when you need it...then blow up.