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a bitter scent, and deep
in water cool, a burning,
a drink to dry the skin. Here one by one
flesh-prickled, stripped and pallor-skinned, we stumble
and stand, and bend, and plunge, and take to air
’til water takes to us. We soon, and sooner
will wet emerge with pruning fingers shrunken,
bellies taut with breath.
Raw throats and throbbing lungs, and muscles jellied,
a nakedness that skin can’t stretch to cover,
exact from us the pain of old sensation,
entice us to the darkness before birth.
This is a world for which we are not made.
Our bodies, clumsy here; our ragged edges
splayed out and straggling, and bent joints out of joint.
Under, a liquid silence closes over
mouth ears and eyes. So slick we are to swallow,
such floating to our weight, such heavy grace
in sinking smooth and down.


— Rosa Inocencio Smith