, March 01, 2024

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New Bathing Suit

  •   1 min read
New Bathing Suit
Conner Baker via Unsplash

In this typ­i­cal­ly plain-spo­ken poem by North Car­oli­na poet, Ter­ri Kir­by Erick­son, from her new col­lec­tion, A Sun Inside My Chest, there is, hum­ming below the still sur­face of lan­guage, a rich pulse of hope, of every­day sur­vival — a body’s defi­ance that she cap­tures in that final image. 

By Terri Kirby Erickson

My friend is wearing her new black bathing suit.
It came with the proper cups, made to fill
with one breast and the memory
of another—which is not to say emptiness
but the fullness that comes to us, with sacrifice.
There is no one more alive than she is now,
floating like a lotus or swimming, lap after lap,
parting the turquoise, chlorine-scented water,
her arms as sturdy as wooden paddles.
And when she pulls herself from the pool,
her new suit dripping—the pulse is so strong
in her wrists and throat, a little bird
outside the window will hear it, begin to flap
its wings to the beat of her heart.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Terri Kirby Erickson, “New Bathing Suit” from A Sun Inside My Chest, (Press 53, 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Permissions Company, LLC and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2024 by The Poetry Foundation.

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