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The Drowned Boy

Maureen Scott Harris
From:   Arc, 47 winter 2001


Somewhere a boy is drowning. Or has drowned.
But he doesn't know it. He believes he is still
holding his mother's hand, still stepping carefully
along the dock's edge learning the sunset sky.
His face is lifted to the heavy light, the way
it trembles and darts through the gentle water.
Does his mother dream she flings him from her
in an agony because a bee settles and stings her?
Its venom whorls in below her skin, its voices
climbing to the membrane behind her ear, a thin-
bladed whine more than she can bear. It all
happened so fast. That's why he hasn't noticed
that his eyes blink slowly against light not water.
Ribbon weeds caress him soft as a mother's hand
and he yawns and drifts slightly, it's that dreamy
time of evening when some people leave
their bodies seated in padded green armchairs
while they spiral like augers through the dusk.
They believe they may glimpse the faces they had
before they were born—or at least the faces
of the mothers they never knew. The people
their mothers become when they leave
the rooms where the children are sleeping. As for
the drowned or drowning boy, a length of something—
weed, rope, plastic pipe—has caught him under
one arm so now he is corralled in a field of water.
Perhaps it is this line he mistakes for his mother's hand.
Sometimes on a standstill night when the moon
is brightening, if you look dosely you'll catch
sight of him, turning and shifting in the water.
You might see his eyes refract the light and flash
it back to yours, a blessing passing between you
like a hand or line held out.


"The Drowned Boy"
was awarded second prize in Arc's poem of the year contest in 2001,
and was first published in Arc 47 (winter 2001).


Maureen Scott Harris's works copyright © to the author.


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