I do not remember the spectators throwing muffled advice through clenched teeth;
Or the stopwatch ping-ponging off the walls of my brain,
Frantically adding and subtracting water from momentum;
Or even the fire tinting my vision when my lungs forget to breathe.
All I can recall is the whisper
Of a voice with sharpened razorblades for eyes
Asking how I can refuse to win when
The world is standing on my heels, screaming “Faster”.
I try to fix my goggles down to
The white line like it tells me to, but I can’t avoid
The chlorine-tainted girl sinking behind my eyelashes,
And I forget that a wall is coming until my head slams into it.
I want to scream that when
I add plastic gold medals to my loaded underwater arsenal
I set the girl’s heart in my scope, watching as
She chokes on the pool water dripping down her cheeks.
But the bubbles shooting from my mouth
Strike its ear as out-of-breath excuses
For why I’m grabbing at the toes of lanes 2 and 4
Instead of shaking the seconds off my shoulders like raindrops.
If the needlepoint vision of a whisper
Would only dull and tarnish, then it might notice
That I’m corkscrewing down foot by foot to save
The parts of myself that can’t hold head above water.