For a Summer They Lived Underwater by Cathy McArthur-Palermo

After the burial, Jeanne dove into those places in the lake where the water was deep, held her breath, skidded under rocks, past the beer cans and the red and white lures.  She sat in the muck, where her daughter had slivered away with silver earrings, small weights.  Sunk to where her daughter unraveled, spun out like fishing line and twisted into knots.

Her husband Pete sank too, a night light on his face. Covered in mud, barely recognizable.

Overhead ducks quacked and swans kept swimming, the big mouth bass gleamed its green and yellow scales.  And underneath, the roots of lake weed, more sorrow clung to their hair and their feet.  Their marriage was settling.

They wanted a living room sofa and bookcase.  And a ladder they could climb up to surface, to speak again.  A long ladder with rungs pulled up from the bottom.  No one would visit them.

“Too much sadness,” Jeanne’s mother talked through her loud lime snorkeling mask, just skimming the water, returning to shore.

Later they would emerge and float like children, holding on to each other, pulling each other’s, noodles, inner tubes, cylinders; those transparent colors, slick like cellophane or wet flowers, slippery. Staying afloat.   Later they would put on translucent shirts and sunglasses, relearn the alphabet.

Above the lake, they could drift away from any mess. 

Their solid, jellied bodies were transformed by swimming.  


Cathy McArthur Palermo’s flash fiction is forthcoming in Peatsmoke, and her poetry was recently a semifinalist for the Crab Creek Review Poetry Prize.  Her poetry and prose have appeared in The Rumpus, Jacket, Juked, Barrow Street, Gargoyle, The Valparaiso Poetry Review, Cordella, The Lily Poetry Review, and The Bellevue Literary Review among others. She has an MFA from CCNY and has taught creative writing at The City University of New York and for The Lighthouse Guild.  She lives with her husband in Queens, NY.