Almost eight, Amy swims down the lane casually, in a zig-zag pattern,
kicking her feet so slowly they barely leave a wake,
eyes closed as her swim cap grazes the plastic lane divider,
calmly coming back to the center.
She arrives at the end and emerges from the pool, just like she’s supposed to.
While I reach out to her, parents huddle in the civic center in a small town in Texas,
praying that their child will emerge from the school just like they’re supposed to.
Amy walks to me, streaming water, and I hold her tight,
the wet warm imprint of her head on my torso,
my sleeves soaked where my arms hold her.
She moves away.
“Did you see my turn, mom?”
The dampness she left on my clothes
evaporates in the May heat.
All that is left now is a coolness on my skin
in the shape of her still whole and beloved body
and the engulfing grief and terror of having a child in America.
About the Poem
On May 24, as I learned about the shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, I was taking my second-grade daughter to swim lessons in California. This poem is a testament to the grief and fear that I felt, the empathy for the grieving families, and my own experience as a mother of a beloved child, knowing that my love is no different from any other mother’s love for her child.
About the Author
Margaret Paige is an educator and writer living in Sacramento, California with her kid and her cats.
Ms. Paige, what a powerful poem. I especially like the image and impact you create in the last stanza of the imprint of your child. May God protect your child, and all of us. Thank you for sharing. peace, Claire
Margo. What a gift you give the world with your writing. That last line knocked the wind out of me. Thank you for writing. Thank you for feeling and staying present and for sharing yourself with us.
Wow, thank you so much for sharing this with us. Brought me to tears. We all grieve for the families. Hold your loved ones tight.
Beautifully simple. No frills or pretension. Honest and straight. A perfect expression of a parent’s fears in today’s America told directly from the heart.
You have perfectly captured the deep fear of an entire generation of American parents and their children, trapped in the hell created by gun rights fanatics.
So proud of you.
Very moving! You’ve perfectly captured this regular moment and imbued it with comprehension and grief. I’m excited to see more.
Absolutely beautiful Margo. Sweet. Heartbreaking. Poignant. So proud.
This is truly good. Thank you.
Oh, my dearest Margetty,
You’ve captured one of those simple, precious moments that those parents will never have again. Your imagery will stay with me adding such sweetness with the bitter.
Art is how we express the unexpressable, how we process the unprocessable, how we grieve, how we heal and how we hope. Thank you for this amazing gift. May it speak to all of us who need it so desperately in this moment.