for Rosalba 

Underwater, my lungs burn at the thought of breaking the surface. 
I am reminded of when I learned to hold my breath. During your first trimester, 
you would breathe in double the amount of oxygen and pump 
ninety percent of it to me. My lungs learning to hold air 
without the possibility of drowning. I break the surface, 
force myself to stay afloat. The weight of my body 
distributed across the water. I think back to lessons 
regarding buoyancy. How I learned to float on my back 
during your second trimester, when our heartbeat was one 
shared song. My body turns in the fetal position. I hold my breath 
              and push off the walls of your stomach– 
my legs kicking and squirming. I think back to when I learned 
how to swim. When your body signaled to me that it was time to leave 
at the end of your third trimester. I could no longer use your umbilical cord 
like a floatie. Into the world I swam. Into a world that warns 
you of the dangers of water without teaching you how to swim. 
I think about how you spend your one day off from work 
at Yosemite Pool. Where you taught yourself how to kick and 
pull and push the water around you to stay alive. Then,

threw me in the water and taught me the same.


Copyright © 2023 Edgar Morales. This poem originally appeared on Poets.org as part of the 2023 University and College Poetry Prizes. Used with the permission of the author.