Forgetting to Swim

Image: me, 2014

Didn’t learn to swim until I was sixteen.
Lived twenty minutes from the ocean all my childhood,
but never learned. Living by the ocean
doesn’t mean you know.
All the women in my family who had
grown up with the ocean
never learned.
Funny, you think. Why not, you ask.
Women couldn’t. They also couldn’t
ride bikes as it was believed
their hymens would be broken –
something reserved only for men to break.

Maybe the water was seen as sensual.
The same exhilaration
you’d feel during orgasm,
again, another belief orgasms
weren’t meant for women.

Swim. Now. Force myself as I snorkel off the waters of
Fiji, Sangat, Leyte, Maui, Oahu, Menjangan, and Vieques.
I hyperventilate and question the physics:
How is it possible to stay afloat
Watch people swim                 Why can’t I do that

Try not to think of the physics             Try not to
or drown
I panic when the appearance of

brightly colored fish calms me and I remember
I had always known in the womb.

At the bus stop, I imagine swimming
to the rooftops of the skyscrapers
when I suddenly think of
forgetting to swim.

The unfamiliarity of body.
I begin to drown.
The waters close in
like an infestation of ants.

I have to remind myself,

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