Marco Polo

You live your life
the way you carve your apple peel,
every noon, like clockwork,
into one long
                perfect strip:
deliberately, painstakingly.

As kids, hostages
in our parents' war games
of pursuit and retreat, surrender
and attack– always some opposing forces
canceling each other out- we were their victories,
a shiny filigree of hard-won medals, on a good day.
Every other day we were bartered burdens,
vexations, little mirrors they could barely look into.
Shell-shocked witnesses.

The rumbling would surge up from underneath
the white shag carpet, crystal trembling
in the cupboard, threatening to break. His first insult
hurled at her head with that infuriating smirk; ice
clinking in highball glasses, drowning the falling sky.
The jaw behind her lipsticked mouth, set.

What else could we do
but escape to the pool, our pool; dive in
to that muting, time-stopping water, our deafening water.
We'd give each other a side glance and we were off---
sprinting barefoot across the prickly lawn,
just ahead of the inferno boiling up behind us.
We'd start the deep inhale two strides before leaping,
arms and legs punching air, crashing into the deep end.

You could almost hear the sizzle as we broke 
water. We'd stay under, eyes closed,
arms outstretched, seeking and being sought.
Eventually, we'd find each other; it's hard
to swim away quickly when you're giggling.
When it was time, we would emerge as robotic
as synchronized swimmers.

I saw you yell into the water--- silent screamer,
secret imploder– you wished you could hold your breath
forever. That's when I learned to read lips.
I wanted to carry you away and set you down in a garden.

Control is a good thing, you say now,
arranging your stark white tulips just so. Always sure
not to spill a drop,
or drive too fast,
or use the wrong fork at dinner.

©Barb Reynolds

This poem may not be reproduced without the author's permission.