Swim Against the Self
The day ends here, at this Dubuque dock,
the Mississippi River nothing more than twilight’s
footstool, a scarlet-shone lily pad casting ripples
down the drain of the day. If only fear could be dispelled
so easily. You see, I came out as gay in a college essay
earlier today. Now I whisper my life into the water,
as if it instead could keep my fear of being judged.
I want to accept myself, though I fear many will notice
not the rainbow in my eyes or my soul lost in its carapace,
but the effeminate drawl on my lips or the flamboyant
waltz of my walk whenever I enter a room packed
with those I want to befriend, but may be left disappointed.
Meanwhile, air reels in the cold, the hands of the dead
silence the sun, the black eyes of lampposts blink at nothing,
a breeze of dahlias shudders like a nightmare upon the water:
I want to say to the drowning man looking back at me,
Forgive me. Please. Forgive me. I’m still learning to love myself.
The hardest part of living is learning how to swim against the self.
Editor’s Note: The imagery in this poem immediately jumps out at the reader, pulling one into the narrative of uncertainty that feels more universal than not (as the last line insists).