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            After E.J. Koh

I know loneliness feels like a game

played in motel pools when you still

took family trips. Who could stay under

the longest? You always won—thrashing

to the surface as soon as you saw

your sister’s legs glide upward. Solitude

isn’t water, it can’t drown you, though

your own thrashing might. You won’t


believe me, but one day you will crave it, build

a life around protecting your own quiet. I am reluctant

to speed you toward that because forcing

things never goes as planned, especially

when the thing is a child. But you’re not


safe when you give your address to a man

at the library, proud you can spell

your street name, or even decades later

trying to prove yourself wrong by always

saying yes. I could sit and remember, or sit


and imagine your astonishing rise

from motel pool to Olympic swimmer.

You bite your gold medal and thank

your sister when the reporter asks

how you got so good at holding your breath.

You tell them you played for hours as

mermaids, sharks, deep sea divers,

finders of treasures and wrecks,

pirates and explorers. You walked

the plank and battled monsters together,

fell asleep wrapped in brightly colored towels