Preparing Not to Drown
by SM Stubbs
Growing up near the ocean I knew a hundred ways
water might reclaim me. South Florida’s
always been full of hazards: canals and sinkholes,
choppy inlets where the Intracoastal meets the sea,
a dozen swamps. One day in someone’s pool
a neighbor kid pulled me down, held me under.
I saw my path toward death and thrashed my
way up. Other close calls: aged 3, the water slide;
aged 9, pinned beneath waves by the undertow;
7-18, countless gallons inhaled when least expected.
See, not drowning involves impossible calm.
After the sky went silent on September 11th
everyone in New York City held their breath
hoping to find the surface. We emerged from
subways with our lungs full and went about our
business as if we’d never need more oxygen.
I knew my throat would seal itself off if I didn’t
hunt for escape routes, didn’t keep packed bags
next to the door. In the weeks that followed I saw
how gentle people could be and thought, We share
sidewalks, we step aside when someone’s choosing olives, we
don’t stab each other in the neck to make it easier to breathe.
SM Stubbs is the co-owner of a bar in Brooklyn, NY. He grew up in South Florida and has worked as a publishing grunt, line cook, landscaper, college instructor, museum display, and a bunch of other things. He received an MFA from Indiana University, is the recipient of a scholarship to Bread Loaf and has been nominated for Best New Poets 2018. Poems have appeared or will appear in The Normal School, Jabberwock Review, Cherry Tree, Poetry Northwest, Opossum, Atticus Review, Puerto Del Sol, and others.