O N   D U T Y


N O   L I F E G U A R D   E V E R


Courtney Gustafson is a poet and writer living in Tucson, Arizona. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Word Riot, Necessary Fiction, After the Pause, and elsewhere. Her first chapbook, Unapology, is forthcoming from Dirty Chai.

B Y   C O U R T N E Y   G U S T A F S O N 

The pool closes at eight. We sneak
in at ten. It isn’t about being bodies
in water; we are only soaking our bones.
 
Maybe it should be romantic. I mostly cling
to the side, searching the water for shapes.  I care
about the sounds of it: the wet slap
 
of pool feet on concrete as we move from hot
to cold. There are lizards here, animals we’ve never
seen. We can see stars. We can see things in the distance
 
for the first time in our lives. As a kid, swimming
lessons were mandatory and early morning,
when the water was still cold. Blow bubbles
 
with your face in the water, hold tight to the side
as you kick. My biggest victory was getting in
and staying there, how I’ve always hated
 
the feeling of water on skin. The way water
has always been my undoing. In the dark,
it’s both softer and sad.
 
We came here exactly for this: the feeling
that we could slip underwater and stay
there. Here, it says: swim
 
at your own risk. No one
will ever be watching.

​​H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L