kendall a. bell

The perfect way to drown

My father is the reason I never learned
to swim. I would sit by the edge of our
neighbor’s pool and dangle my feet over
the side just enough to cover them, just
enough to be able to stare all the way
down to the blue liner at the bottom as
the chlorinated water rippled. I’d watch
the plastic vent door open and shut,
open and shut, duck away when someone
threw a beach ball near me, my thick red
hair in my eyes. Getting my feet wet wasn’t
enough for my father. He’d always think it
was hilarious to push me into the water.
My body would sink like a pale anchor,
the water stinging my sinuses, my stunned
mouth agape and swallowing. My head crested
the water in what seemed like slow motion
and my clogged ears could still hear my
father laughing, as if this was the shove
that would make me want to take swimming
lessons. Instead, it gave me an out, a way
to rid myself of the voices in my head.
Knives are painful and it takes too long
for them to finish the job. I could just
wait until my neighbors had gone off to open
their bakery and rattle their wood gate ajar.
Dressed in a long sleeve shirt and cords,
my feet weighted with combat boots, I’ll pull
the cover off of the pool and slip slowly over
the side, feel myself become weightless, watch
my arms flail up, like they’re waving goodbye
and feel the water dragging me to the bottom.

Kendall A. Bell‘s poetry has been widely published in print and online, most recently in Rose Red Review and work to a calm. He was nominated for Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net collection in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013. He is the author of fifteen chapbooks, the most recent of which is Be Mine, all available through Maverick Duck Press. He is the founder and co-editor of the online journal Chantarelle’s Notebook and the publisher/editor of Maverick Duck Press. He lives in Riverside, New Jersey; visit his website at

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