In payment for those mornings at the mirror while,
                        at her
            expense, I’d started my late learning in Applied
French Braids, for all
                        the mornings afterward of Hush
            and Just stand still,
to make some small amends for every reg-
            ed bathtime and short-shrifted goodnight kiss,
I did as I was told for once,
                        gave up
            my map, let Emma lead us through the woods
“by instinct,” as the drunkard knew
                        the natural
            prince. We had no towels, we had
no “bathing costumes,” as the children’s novels
                        call them here, and I
            am summer’s dullest hand at un-
premeditated moves. But when
                        the coppice of sheltering boxwood
            disclosed its path and posted
rules, our wonted bows to seemliness seemed
                        poor excuse.
            The ladies in their lumpy variety lay
on their public half-acre of lawn,
                        the water
            lay in dappled shade, while Emma
in her underwear and I
                        in an ill-
            fitting borrowed suit availed us of
the breast stroke and a modified
            She’s eight now. She will rather
die than do this in a year or two
                        and lobbies,
            even as we swim, to be allowed to cut
her hair. I do, dear girl, I will
                        give up
            this honey-colored metric of augmented
thirds, but not (shall we climb
                        on the raft
            for a while?) not yet.
Linda Gregerson, “With Emma at the Ladies-Only Swimming Pool on Hampstead Heath” from The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep. Copyright © 1996 by Linda Gregerson. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: The Woman Who Died in her Sleep(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1996)

Linda Gregerson

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