Treading Water

By: Katherine D. Westbrook

This is the pretend-dream,
where I am teaching you to swim,
and your body and my body
remember their names in the water.

We pull them from the lake
where they’ve been drowning,
covered in salt, covered in
sweat and horsetails.

Maybe the roof is on fire. Maybe it rains.
Maybe the fawns watch our movements
through the trees and we take the back
path in the woods to kiss their eyelids,

and then become something
better than what we are now,

something different

I forget how the rest should go,
anyhow it doesn’t matter because
here we are at the pretend-dream,
where I pretend-love you,

and we are so in-love
and we are happy,

even when your arms sprawl the table, and you
tell me how you’d like to die losing breath at the
bottom of the lake. Even when you tell me
you’ve been practicing in the bathtub,

that there’s a boy down the road,
and if there isn’t there might as well be, that
that boy’s at his own table, and he’s got a gun,
and it’s cold in his room when the lights turn out

You say he’s thinking about flying but
let us not think of that now.

What are the good parts I remember

Ah, this is the part where you’ve gotten
that promotion. Great, baby, give me kisses.

This is the part when your song
plays on the radio, simple and
terrible, and this is when we stomp craters
into the linoleum, and are empty as shadows.

You go here and I go there.
Here is your mouth and there is mine.

Hello, sunshine
I’ve missed you

We stretch out our arms like children

How beautiful.

We say our names until I forget myself,
this is how I am in debt to you
This is the belly we live under
This is where we are alive,


But how did we manage to make it out?
shhh. We haven’t yet. We’re still sleeping.

Here is how I imagine it, I say,
I say, here is the real dream:

I take all this love and call it an inconvenience, and the boy
wastes himself across the brick walls like a constellation

Your mouth full of water,
filled with water,
filling with water

in a coughing fit
you are drowning,

you are floating face-down in the lake
and I go home to close the windows.

Oh, I ruined it again

The real things
The real things