Poem by Kurt Brown (1944-2013)
Straight-backed, clean-limbed, freckled like a trout
she stands at the edge of the high board
defiant and ashamed at once, conscious
of our eyes on her, this diver all of seventeen
whose body is a beauty she can barely comprehend.
The boys shout insults, shove each other
in their awkwardness, half awed that she would step out
on the trembling board to risk our gaze
and the water’s bright enticement, smooth but hard
beneath her. Their catcalls echo off the walls.
I cannot tell you how she looks, poised on the cusp
of adolescence, this girl fading into the woman
she’ll become, sylph-like in her tight suit,
hair a frazzled halo, arms held up like a sleepwalker
trying to contain herself and blot out their cries.
Now she pivots like a dancer, gripping the board
with her toes, and rises as it quivers with her weight
then settles again. She waits until it stops,
until she gathers herself up to balance there,
tall and undeniable, her back to us in the withering light.
Suddenly her knees bend, spring up, and bend once more,
then toss her up and out into the shocked air
where she clasps her knees between her arms
like a fetus rolling backward in a perfect arc,
then lets them go again and straightens in a long fall.
And then her fingers tear the water open and her body
disappears into the pool, nothing but a splash
to mark where she once was, and the boys turn
to one another, hushed, feeling their own bodies
falling perilously through childhood, past mockery into love.
poem originally appeared in TIME BOUND (Tiger Bark Press)
Kurt Brown (1944-2013) was the editor of many poetry anthologies and collected essays on poetic craft. His is the author of Return of the Prodigals, (Four Way Books) and More Things in Heaven and Earth (also Four Way Books.) Fables from the Ark, won the 2003 Custom Words Prize. Future Ship (Red Hen Press) was followed by No Other Paradise (also from Red Hen Press). Tiger Bark Press published Time-Bound and his posthumous I’ve Come This Far To Say Hello: Poems Selected and New in 2014.