Dim light, smell of wet boards, Clorox.
_____At ten, mostly elbow, knee and ribcage,
I hurry into my red bathing suit.
Slowly, I tie the strap at the back,
_____sit on the bench to unbuckle my sandals.
It’s hot in the bathhouse, sweat itches
my neck. Bare, round bottoms, billowing
_____hips. Breasts spilling from brassieres,
pale and smooth as Mama’s
bread dough rising above the rim
_____of her blue-striped bowl. I know
not to stare but risk short looks,
overwhelmed by the easy way
_____these women move alongside each other.
A brunette from the college pulls on
her white Esther Williams swimsuit
_____and rubs oil into her arms, over thighs plush
as sofa cushions. Tugging at the seat
of her suit, she turns, winks at me
_____as she leaves. I’m ashamed. A dumb baby.
Though Grandma’s round, she’s always
bound in stiff corsets. And Mama,
_____petite and trim, is almost as boyish as me.
No such generous flesh soaks
in our bathtub or checks a reflection
_____in the mirror. My friends are already wading
into the water. I grab my towel,
stop to stand at the door, trying
_____to guess secrets that edge at me. Outside,
sand burns my feet. I’m running.