The Pool

Sheila Squillante

In the joke with the bowl of water

you sprinkle salt and pepper

to represent children.

In the bowl, the children swim

together, mixing like spices

in a nourishing soup

which is the only thing

that belongs in the bowl

and we feel hungry, don’t we?

So far this seems silly or surreal —

a fable, a metaphor, something made

up, dinner with children,

their skin figured like seasoning,

how to make something delicious.

In a story from childhood,

someone performs it for me step by step:

First you fill a bowl. And now you

dump the salt, and now the pepper,

and look, they’re swimming together!

Such fun! But here comes

the Mexican or the Pollack

or the Jew, which is dish soap

on the tip of a finger, touching

the surface tension of the pool

water, so careful and clean.

Ha ha. We watch the children flee

each other, scatter to the sides

and out of the pool as if sizzled

by lightning or drowning

with cramps from swimming

too soon after lunch. Cool!

I’ve got the bowl out now —

teaching this joke

to my own children,

a demonstration of how clever

and hilarious disgust can be.

Ha ha.

Yesterday a black man died

slowly from a white cop’s gun

while his girlfriend filmed

his story, her proof while

her small child watched

and surely learned. All of this,

expository and literal. Thirty

years have passed and

I make them touch the surface, and

I touch the surface and

I watch their faces and

this is no joke and

I’m not laughing


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