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Lisa Segal - Three Poems

published by ​The Thieving Magpie


The air conditioning clicks on.
Phoenix heat presses
against the blue-framed windows
that line my eighth-grade classroom.
It still seems like summer—the heat,
my dark hair reddish from chlorine,
my skin the color of date pits.

I’m at my desk,
a mimeographed test
in front of me,
a yellow pencil
in my hand

Twenty specific minutes
have begun to slip away.
I lift the top sheet.
It’s filled with questions.
I have my own questions:
how deep is the ocean,
how high is the sky?

The clock isn’t making that tapping sound.
That’s my pencil eraser hitting
the desk as I flip it between my fingers.
A rectangle of light that moved
down the side of Mrs. Bishop’s desk
now climbs up Annie Taylor’s leg,
makes it’s way to the hem of her pleated skirt.
She doesn’t notice the sun’s design on her.
Everything has designs on her,
but she’s oblivious to it all.
She’s bent over her desk,
defining words and identifying triangles—
equilateral, isosceles, and scalene—
by their acute, obtuse, or right angles.
For all she cares, the sun can have her.

She shifts in her seat
and the sun reaches her knee,
claiming her.

On land, Annie’s better than me.
I haven’t much meat on my bones yet.
When I walk, my ankles knock each other.

Annie’s not afraid, like I am,
that she’ll melt and become a free form,
shaped like the rays of light which spread
into configurations that can’t be named
as they caress the water in the pool.

Just hours before, I swam
among those patches of light,
skimmed the bottom of the pool,
followed it’s contour
deeper and deeper, sure I’d explode,
as I almost do, until rocket-like,
I thrust myself up from the deep end,
erupt from the surface
in a froth of bubbles,
and gasp, sucking harsh oxygen
back into my lungs.
This is the test I pass,
droplets of water flying from me
in a spray of liquid diamonds,
rising into the dry heat
of a Phoenix morning
because the water
didn’t breach me,
didn’t claim me,
didn’t keep me under.

© 2017 Lisa Segal

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