Proud Solid on her two bare feet, she stands with her teammates in the locker room. Her brown hair with its sunny streaks woven through hangs in a braid tied off with a red rubber band. The tip of her ponytail like a spade is dripping wet, the water easing down her back and under her striped swimsuit where the skin is milky white. In the laughter of the big girls, she feels like she’s floating, resting on a raft, Rather than pulling herself like a frog with her arms reaching out & her legs spreading wide, moving the water like earth being cleared for something new. She won her race today. Not a personal best. But she doesn’t pay attention to that. The play of it all, her body dancing like a mermaid ballerina – that’s why she’s there. The captain, striding to the shower, slows long enough to hold up her right hand, fingers spread in front of little one’s face. She claps her hand against the big salute. The feel of their palms hitting each other vibrates for a few seconds & moves up her arm & into her center. “Great race!” Another vibration then tickles her ears & touches her core, meeting up with the energy of the clap. Looking up, her brown eyes glittering like the card she made her mom for her birthday last week, she smiles. Not with her lips sealed & tilted up at the edges, but so her braced teeth show through her soft pink lips & a little giggle comes out.
This poem is also part of a collection I put together called All the Shapes of Joy.