and the red tendrils reaching like the summer
she taught me to swim at the Y – ear to the water
and listen! – the long vowels of children dimming
to a warble under the surface, almost holy to be held
that way, my small body lifted by the water and
my mother’s hands, my mother who pulled me from
nothingness into existence as simply as a brush
tows red across a canvas until it’s an acre of
bowing poppies, red as my lips drawing another
breath, red as a choir, I want to fill my pockets
with the color my mother made, to break the red
mountain and eat its red pulp, to pin its red wings
to my back and walk the red desert of my heart
that learned from my mother how to live.
Ruth Awad is a Lebanese-American poet, 2021 NEA Poetry Fellow, and the author of Set to Music a Wildfire (Southern Indiana Review Press, 2017), winner of the 2016 Michael Waters Poetry Prize and the 2018 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. Alongside Rachel Mennies, she is the co-editor of The Familiar Wild: On Dogs & Poetry (Sundress Publications, 2020). She is the recipient of the 2020 and 2016 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award. Her work appears in Poetry, Poem-a-Day, The Believer, The New Republic, Kenyon Review, Pleiades, The Missouri Review, The Rumpus, and elsewhere.