Coventina

My dear friend Larina lost her son this past weekend. I am heartbroken for her. He was only eleven years old and though he had cerebral palsy, his passing was unexpected. Several years ago I wrote a poem for her based on a newspaper article written about her and her son. I’m pasting it below in honor of his memory.



Coventina


— river goddess, known for healing

That morning he dreamed of dolphins. Deep waves. Smooth hide and clicks against his body. The sea moved his feet as if he could walk on water and he woke sweating, afraid of the thunder outside. Afraid of the rain, but the dream remained, too, even as his mother strapped him in his wheelchair. For once, the squeak of its joints didn’t upset him. Because this was his first time at the pool, he tried not to show how much he wanted it but her face told him she knew. She knew he wanted to swim, even if his limbs disobeyed his mind. Even if that black feeling came back. And the water was warm. Buoyant. They’d painted dolphins and fish on the tile so he swallowed the fear down, almost choking. Closed his eyes. He imagined the pool was a river, an ocean. The slap of hands splashing became waves and he almost smiled as the lights flickered, buzzing electricity. When they blinked out and emergency lamps clicked on, he discovered the mural on the ceiling: a woman with butterfly wings, black hair flowing past her cattail dress. Coins strewn around her feet. Shimmering green light everywhere. He wished he had a dime to toss, but then his mother lifted him up and let go and for the first time in his life he moved by himself. He laughed, something inside breaking open like a tsunami, like an impossible dream, and then he saw his mother smile as tears slipped down her face like rain.

— for Larina and her son Zack




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