Once, she and I swam together in the Atlantic.
Stepping in from a nearly empty Jersey shore,
our creamy feet flinched from sharp-edged
shells. We had switched bathing suits that day,
each posing in tight, patterned skin of the other.
Neither fit quite right, but we wanted to be
someone different—and the same. With pale
hands locked, we dove into roaring white-capped
waves, an unexpected surge launching us
into an awkward backward somersault. We
actually turned together, moved as one, linked
arms declaring that like Siamese twins, we shared
an umbilical. Looking back, I know the swell
could have mangled us, ripped shoulders
from sockets, bent elbows the wrong way,
forced us to let go. But we surfaced coughing
up salt water, convulsing from laughter,
fingers clenched in an endless, instinctual grip.
—Jennifer Hurley (Porter County)
This poem is from Origin (Finishing Line Press, 2016) and originally appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review.
Jennifer Hurley received an M.A. in Liberal Studies, Concentration: English, from Valparaiso University. She works as a Media Specialist at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Valparaiso, Indiana. Her poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in various literary publications, including The Cresset, Etchings, Flying Island, Plath Profiles, and Valparaiso Poetry Review, among others. In addition, one of her poems appeared in the print anthology, Best of Flying Island, 2014. Her first poetry collection, Origin, is available for pre-sale.
Poetry Prompt: A Risk You Took
Through vivid details, recreate an experience from childhood or adolescence in which you took a risk. It doesn’t need to be an extraordinary risk; it might be as common as learning to ride a bike without training wheels or asking someone to the prom. You may have taken this risk by yourself or with a sibling or friend. What motivated your action? What were the consequences? Let the poem bring you to some new perspective.
Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem and prompt every day in April. Indiana Poet Laureate Shari Wagner selected these poems and wrote the prompts.