Beaver

A small beaver
is the arrow point
racing through creek
water, and I follow
him, jogging, on
the path. He ducks
away, his flat
tail slicing clean
through murk, leaving
the drawing of
a hole on the creek
surface. Magic
trick. And maybe dying
is like that: quick,
simple. Flip turns
we performed
in swim meets
twenty times
in a clean row, like
they were nothing,
like routine.
And after, I’d go home
and eat, my body
shaking

from the energy I’d
lost, like I had
canyons in my gut.
Like I was empty,
and the water took
up space.

Even so, the water
we swam in
was clear, pumped
through with chemicals
and catching
all the light
and we made
lines of arms
and heads
and kicking feet
all pointed back.

The beaver doesn’t
reappear.

And anyway, I wasn’t
good

on the swim team;
all that spring, my body
caught in the pool water
like a knot
of crumpled hair. So

maybe dying
is like that:
tangled and frayed,

finally letting myself

fail.

But the best part
of that time, was after
practice, in the rows
of thin-tiled
showers, with the water
tamed and warming
in my hair and on my
skin and the hard
ache

of a day—of a small life—
in everything.

Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco lives in California’s Central Valley. She co-edits One Sentence Poems. Her first chapbook, Various Lies, is available from Finishing Line Press, and her second, Lion Hunt, is forthcoming from Plan B Press.

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