At the art museum, I stare at paintings of water
thinking how my children first lived there.
I held it and it held them.
My body an ocean, an ecosystem
swelled around their emerging forms.
Maybe that’s what draws me to it:
its sustaining body, its destroying force.
In memory I notice earlier that my sister
is drowning: the twist of her face, the gargle of her breath
when I learned she wasn’t joking, when I screamed
for help to dad, who, in jeans, dived in and saved her;
me right beside her in disbelief.
I’ve never felt as capable as my father.
Raising children has been joyful but that’s not to
say it’s been a picnic. I’m afraid I never did
stop panicking. My sister used to jump
out from behind the bathroom door every time I opened it
to scare me. I learned to expect it, but every time I frightened.
Did I too once float in an ocean inside my mother?
I must have began there
but all I know is being terrified, perpetually
reminding myself that I’ve learned not to drown.
I have one sad eyelid
the left with an extra crease—
a cowl for all I carry
but wish I didn’t
the droop from my father
the desperation from my mother
one of them wouldn’t get up
the other wouldn’t sit still
both of them live in my cells
When I look at pictures
I see half my face smiling
the other half mourning
I can think of no more
than this want to become
Something and this urge
Holly Pelesky writes essays, fiction and poetry. She holds an MFA from the University of Nebraska. Her prose can be found in The Normal School, The Nasiona, and Jellyfish Review. She recently released her first collection of poems, Quiver. She works, coaches slam poetry, and raises boys in Omaha.