Jan Edwards Hemming

“The instinctive drowning response is the final set of autonomic reactions in the 20 – 60 seconds before sinking underwater, and to the untrained eye can look similar to calm safe behavior.”

let’s start this way
below the surface tangled in mud
by grasses thick as braids      it’s so dark
shh it’s just the rot of the river let it suck in
your toes     do you feel how your fingers are nice
and cool there are snakes
in nests they are as natural
and constant as the current

turning blue: to lack air then to die

the color: it started
before Maggie Nelson was even a name
I knew but hey now
I have a kindred spirit in California

when I became a human I was
twenty-something or nineteen
I lay in a bed on a carpet I sat in a chair
at a bar I nursed a beer they say
I took care of it like a child because it was all
I had in my hands or my gut   my fingers were cold

         stagnant: both life and the water and the life in the water

that water is so blue we say but it’s not
it’s just the reflection of the light in the sky
let out by what’s underneath

         a dangerous misconception

what I wanted had blue eyes
and a song
between her legs and I wanted to hum it
to braid her hair

         thoughts that needed
         bending and boundaries
         enter boys enter snakes

to fill me up with secrets when I spread
my legs I turned my head to the side
I pictured holding her hand
the water was clear as it filled my eyes
my lungs were heavy nests

later I stared into someone else’s
got lost
         turned blue
in the surf of them

a tomb of blue or green or brown

a hand above water
count the fingers

the color of bruises

Author Bio: 

Jan Edwards Hemming hails from Louisiana and lives in L.A. with her wife and two cats. She holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from New York University and a B.A. in English from Louisiana State University. Her poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Los Angeles Review of Books Blog, ScalawagThe Mackinac, The Rio Grande Review, The Raven Chronicles, The Weirdlings, and The Exquisite Corpse. Jan teaches creative writing to children and teens.