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Vortex

— Sara Elkamel

somewhere inside my heart I think I know that the day I almost drowned // me and my mother // in the Mediterranean // in the summer // I was small and already hungry // birds warbling between my legs // I liked the bread wet with salt water and chlorine // that summer we almost drowned // I think I did drown // and when the lifeguard // whose face I don’t remember // pulled us out from the vortex // I was already ghost // the sand around my feet like enamel // howling like an animal // I remember // the sand punctuating my new teeth // or were they fig beads from the sandwich // and my mother was so happy to be alive // and my father was so happy we were alive // though he was secretly ashamed // even at seven or eight I could see // shame on a man’s face // that he couldn’t be the one to save us // he would always hold both palms face up // as if in prayer // the gold ring on his finger more gold // below the water // below my back // he told me to flatten // stretch like a log on the water and float // straight // straighter // and the blue of one sea would replace another // I was never patient // but my father performed expertly a log // he floated very far // almost still // but couldn’t come near a hole in the water // and pull us out // maybe it was his shame // that killed me // a young daughter // with no shame // of her own // I don’t think I saw my mother swim again


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