Emily Lake Hansen


On TV last night, after our son went to bed—his hair wet
from a late bath—we watched a woman handcuff
and enchain herself and then jump into a pool as a stunt.
A clock counted the seconds as an audience looked on,
waiting for her return to the surface. I sat suspended
on the couch, wondering not if she would survive
or why she had done it, but how it must feel
to escape. You sat on the other side of the couch
fidgety, uncomfortable with her choice to purposefully
defy ease, to risk life even in the littlest way.

You like earth, not water—each day your hands trace
bits of matter under microscopes, each foot planted
solidly on the ground as you mow the grass,
pluck weeds from the garden bed, your biggest goals
in life to have another kid, build a shed. I'm the one
who takes our son swimming, who tries to teach him,
now that he's three, how to propel his body through the water,
how to paddle his arms, how to dunk his head under
and then stand back up in the shallow end.
I want him to know that water will bend for his body,
that he is capable of holding his breath, of twirling
weightlessly for whole minutes if he wants to.

It's you, though, who has the reoccurring dream:
drowning, your thick, long limbs reach outward
and then, like magic, you swallow the water
and find you can breathe it, can walk for hours
at the bottom of the sea. My dreams are unable
to conjure such escapes—often I am walking a path
I already know.

Emily Lake Hansen is the author of the chapbook The Way the Body Had to Travel (dancing girl press, 2014). Her poetry has appeared in Atticus Review and Dressing Room Poetry Journal among others and was recently included in Til the Tide: An Anthology of Mermaid Poetry. She received an MFA from Georgia College & State University and currently lives, works, and plays too many children's board games in Atlanta.

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