Douglass Pool

Pulling my left shin
into my chest. Like this. 

I wonder if this lifeguard 
thinks I’m a freak. In water 

limbs are even more 
like antennas. The first thing 

I do 
is go under. 
To prove to myself 

that the body can. Be completely 

Remembering water
is like remembering your 
iridescent thighs. In this instance 

you is just another pronoun. Like 
when she said you can go through 
the woman’s side. As if to say
you and your body 

are not a threat to women. Or
the sex of your aide will determine 
your species. Though in water

I push in all the regular ways.

She says I’m not allowed to wear
my purple shirt. White shirts only. 

So I imagine myself completely
as leg. Curling around
the perimeter of my reflection. 

This way. My body looks
like a dancing tattoo. 

I never had intended
on wearing a shirt.


Copyright © 2023 by Latif Askia Ba. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 6, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

About this Poem

“I’m interested in how disabled bodies are perceived, especially in public spaces, where our bodies are often hyper-perceived, fetishized, misinterpreted, and overruled. I wrote this poem to explore the act of swimming in my neighborhood’s public pool. I wanted to remember how I navigated the perceptions of others in order to access what I supposedly already had access to. I want to know how I move in and out of water, in and out of the nondisabled gaze.”
—Latif Askia Ba