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A BarBe Award Winner: Red Swimsuit

I. Red swimsuit

At a seaside town
named after a beloved circus elephant
on a rack in Walmart
behind the rainbow beach balls
a dreamy crimson scarlet
royal red worn at coronations
with dainty white strings
to tie a bow

floating on my back
my naked arms
burning in the August sun
my skin flawless, seamless,
infinite as summer sky

when my fourteen year old body
could no longer fit into
my favorite red swimsuit
tears down my cheeks
tasted of the salty sea

II. Holy week

Don’t go in the water!
The devil is below pulling souls into the deep
my mother shouted from her straw hat refuge

A young boy from the city
drowned on Good Friday
the devil was hard at work on Holy week

bits of coral from the reef washed ashore
my feet left bloody footprints on the sand

III. Drowning

Bobbing up and down on the inner tube
desperately trying to hold my head
high enough above the water
my hands all greasy from suntan lotion
the twins were splashing
Throw me the ball  Cecilia shouted
the rainbow ball spinning in the air
releasing my grip on the floating tube
I reached for it
slipped under the waves
into the dark cement cold ocean
its silence surprised me

IV. Return

My girls brought me round shiny rocks
gathered from the early surf at Muir Beach
they pointed to the dead young whale
washed ashore from the storm
sinews still clinging to the carcass
tail swaying gracefully with the water
skeleton picked clean by the birds
waves toying with the bones
bleached white by the sun

She is returning
to the deep cobalt waters
where she was born
where the ocean sang her lullabies
and the world
held all her salty tears

V.   Beach

At the bottom of a box marked, beach
folded neatly between the mermaid towels
my red swimsuit
a halter top that covered
small budding breasts
before nursing babes
a delicate tiny waist
before it roomed daughters
faded and frayed
white strings
that could no longer tie a bow

VI. Treading water

On the shoreline
lined with colorful umbrellas
I sees her
testing the surf with her toes
in her little red swimsuit

My legs drew circles under water
and figure 8’s with my hands
struggling with the undertow
I fight for each stroke
I will tell her
what’s beyond the waves

By Grace llagan Angel
Filipino American Poet, Painter and Photographer. Her poems have been published with online zines like Monterey Poetry Review and Liminal Spaces: War Stories issue. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her two daughters, husband and two black cats.

2 responses to “A BarBe Award Winner: Red Swimsuit”

  1. Bonnie Avatar

    What a lovely, amniotic journey from girlhood to womanhood. Beautiful.

  2. david earl williams Avatar
    david earl williams

    Good stuff.

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