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Holding On

by Shannon Carriger

Summer days of fried chicken

and potato salad

and cans of Pringles

that pop as the metal lining

is pulled off,

my black-haired,

dark-eyed mother

a Kansas Liz Taylor

in her white one piece,

draws and holds the gazes

of strange men.


Lake water, green-brown

and murky, swallows me,

the bottom slick

with fish brine and wood rot,

my little girl feet

silky slipping as I wade out,

seeking icy spots the sun

can’t reach, marveling

at the depths that don’t

hold heat, my father’s arms

carving the water

as he butterflies to the buoy.


In the dark, in our bedroom

closet, I take

my brother’s hands

and put them over

his ears, placing mine

on top of his,

holding his small palms

against his head and humming

to keep him from hearing

all the words our parents

can’t hold in.


The first time my mother

has cancer,

I hold on to God,

certain He hears me but,

the second time, fractured

as stained glass,

I lose my grip, wavering,

until she is well

and I find Him again,

both of us sheepishly

admitting some small

fault for our separation.


In my dreams,

the lake water is always warm

and none of this

has happened yet,

and all of it has.


I am eight years old

and humming,

arms tight around

my father’s neck

as he swims to the buoy,

red and white and

endlessly bobbing,

farther from shore

than I could swim

back alone,

far enough out

that I could be lost.


I am holding on.

About the Author

Shannon Carriger is a teacher, writer, and book reviewer living in Kansas with her poet-professor husband and their dog, Zelda. Carriger won the Inscape Magazine Editor's Choice Award for Poetry in 2015 and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize; her work has also appeared in various publications including Manhattan Book Review, Blood Lotus, and The Midwest Quarterly.

From the Editor

Want more of Shannon's work? Check her out on Twitter @AStrongLight

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