How to Let my Daughter Swim
Duck, North Carolina
This is not my childhood beach; the shore,
less rocky, gives the false impression that
nature straightens up after itself like a woman
cupping one hand below the dining-room table
to sweep the crumbs into. I have come to accept
the ostomy scar to the right of my belly button,
how weight gain and loss impersonates the coming
and going of the tides, how beautiful stretch marks
left on the shore really are. My beach was carpeted
with jagged expectations—you will do, you will be,
you will never. No one, not even me, wants to
relive their mistakes. Eventually my daughter will
learn to keep her long tentacles tucked under her skirt,
the way I did, but until then I will watch her
charge fearlessly into whatever it is that she doesn't
understand, whatever it is I hope she never has to.
How to Resolve a Case of Mistaken Identity
This is not the first time something of this nature
has happened. At a supermarket in San Francisco,
ten years ago, I heard a woman screaming, Marilyn,
Marilyn, before tapping me on the shoulder. Marilyn,
it has been years, how are you? she asked, hugging me
when I turned around. I stepped back, looked down
at the conveyor belt moving my box of noodles
and two cans of diced tomatoes toward the cashier.
Today an Income Execution letter came in the mail
addressed to me from the local sheriff's office.
The maiden name and social security number aren't
an exact match. Frantically, I call to remedy
this mysterious debt crisis, before my employer
is contacted and my wages garnished.
A clerk at the sheriff's office, in a disbelieving tone,
tells me that there is a process involved in proving
who I am and explains the steps involved.
The day I became Marilyn, the cashier said the total
was two dollars and eighty-three cents and I said
Great, great, it has been a long time, hasn't it?
to the woman who mistook me as an old friend.
As I handed over three dollars, it dawned on me
that for a little while I didn't have to be a broke,
graduate student, who just walked nine blocks
because I didn't have enough money for groceries
and public transportation; I didn't have to be a lonely
New Yorker working as a dishwasher at the
college's cafeteria, so I could afford to study poetry.
Yes, poetry. I didn't have to miss my lover who was
2, 911 miles away. I could be Marilyn,
Marilyn, who married a surgeon. Marilyn who
traveled the world and doesn't need to work.
Marilyn who let an old friend sum up the last ten years
of her life then embraced her for a second time
before parting. Marilyn, who took a strange woman's
phone number and promised to keep in touch.
Rebecca Schumejda is the author of Cadillac Men (NYQ 2012); Falling Forward (sunnyoutside, 2009); From Seed to Sin (Bottle of Smoke Press, 2011), The Map of Our Garden (verve bath, 2009); Dream Big Work Harder (sunnyoutside press 2006); The Tear Duct of the Storm (Green Bean Press, 2001); and the poem "Logic" on a postcard (sunnyoutside). She received her MA in Poetics and Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and her BA in English and Creative Writing from SUNY New Paltz. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and daughter and can be found online at: http://www.nyqbooks.org/author/rebeccaschumejda and http://www.rebeccaschumejda.com/