Get Out of the Water

Monica Rico

My uncle     keeps

          his birth certificate     in his trunk

                                 so when

he gets                      pulled over     he can prove   he was born   in the United States.

He calls my father to say, They want us dead.

          Who?                         All of them.

My uncle     won’t  wear a mask

          it happened on what day     of what month

                         he stretched     his hand in the dark of the movie theater     and dipped

          into my father’s            popcorn. He ate it all     without asking.

My father wants                   a picture       of what I look like,

bandana around my face.     Before I go to the grocery

            he says,                    When your uncle went back to the store,

                         the white woman          next to him

                                        said she didn’t have to wear a mask

                                                       and they let her in          just like that.

               I’ve had a headache since

the pines turned yellow                      and can’t stop

                           thinking about                 how frightened I was

when my mother took me to see Jaws.

It isn’t scary,       my sister said,

                         if you stay          out of the water.

                                        But they don’t,               not until a little white boy dies.

                        Then   his people                           begin to believe

               their vacation  might be          ruined or more accurately

they did not       recognize their beach.

                                                  The horror of Jaws

is not the rows of teeth,                         but the endless sea

                                   of white faces                 who are afraid

                         of losing money          knowing the ocean

                                      has always been full of sharks, blood, and everything else they cannot see.

My uncle          can’t picture             Adam and Eve

          were ever       naked. He got angry     with me

                    as he always does       and told me

                              I didn’t know   what I was     talking about.

Were they     in bathing suits,       standing at the edge of the water

                                         go in,

                                            no you go in,

                                            I’ll go in if you go in.

                       What shark         eagerly awaits             to breach

           or keeps         swimming and thinks,

                                                        I know all about you.

At the grocery,

            my bandana falls        down when I     pull the carts apart.

                         I can hear my uncle laugh,      his too many teeth.

            Hands in     my father’s

                                popcorn           and across his                  sleeping face.

Next to me,

                        a man has six bags      of potato chips, a twelve pack of beer,     and eight steaks.

                         I can’t find     a chicken. I can’t remember     what to buy.

            Shark   attacks often   happen in shallow water.

                                   I’ve always been               the dog,

                                               the owner calls for     and doesn’t notice

                     the stick

                                                floating, not even

                                   the electromagnetic     field

                                                surges a muddy outline               of what I

          know.                            Rupture         the stomach

                                   and find the same license plate,

                                                milk carton,     and arm        of the city still wearing its watch.


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