Swim, Kid

By AJ Olsen

Thrown from your boat and
into the drink,
that Great South Bay just swallowed me up.
It soaked my ears and lungs
as horseshoe crabs scavenged the shallows,
one mile per hour below,
living fossils hunting for mollusks.
I curled my little toes,
and tucked my limbs away–
sinking downward.

You were a hard man, Poppy O,
Marlboro in your fingers,
toothless, the soul of your vessel
that yawed against the tide
a full meter above my slow dancing hair
as I drowned beneath your hull–
tilting leeward.

I was just a little kid,
but I waved those skinny arms,
kicked my legs and feet,
paddled toward the surface like a dog
till I could break it with a sob–
shouting upward.

Jogging toward the harbor,
you placed the wheel within my fingers.
Survived your first shipwreck, you said,
and relived that war inside your mind.
You said we’d earned ourselves a drink,
and tied us to the dock–
peering backward.

Over fried clams
and steamed mussels,
you sipped your gin martini.
I smiled at your wrinkles.
You pulled a cherry through your cigarette,
nodded, then smiled–
looking forward.


AJ Olsen-Headshot-The Brooklyn QuarterlyAJ Olsen’s stories and poems have appeared in The Austin Review, Real South Magazine, Bone Parade, Blue Moon, and elsewhere. He earned an English degree from Fordham University in New York City and a Master of Liberal Arts degree from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. He is an MFA candidate at Florida International University in Miami and resides in Hollywood, Florida.

Join the Conversation