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Community Pool
Joe Cottonwood


Rowena, a difficult mom,
watches Cleo, her difficult daughter,
while complaining about the scent of chlorine
to whoever will listen in this difficult town
when, without warning, Cleo takes off
for the deep end.
She’s four.

Cleo splashes a rudimentary crawl.
Her legs dangle.
She’s tiny out there, an acorn with arms.
Half across the deep end she flails.
Rowena screams “Cleo!” and runs to the ladder.
Lifeguard is on his feet, ready.
Rowena, poised to jump, shakes him off.
Water games stop. Sunbathers sit up.
Alert, silent, we watch.

Thrashing like a paddlewheel boat,
Cleo advances slightly faster than driftwood
to the ladder, and we hear her small voice:
“Mommy, I need to work on that.”
And we exhale as one, all one,
at the community pool.

© by Joe Cottonwood.
Used here with the author’s permission.

Joe Cottonwood is a semi-retired contractor with a lifetime of small jobs repairing homes. He lives with his high school sweetheart under redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, caring for curly-haired dogs and straight-haired grandchildren. Joe's latest book is Random Saints. Learn more about him at




Post New Comment:
Charming poem, descriptive~~made me smile!
Posted 05/08/2024 09:51 PM
Lori Levy:
Very vivid depiction of this scene at the community pool!
Posted 05/08/2024 02:39 PM
Sharon Waller Knutson:
I can see this poem so clearly that it plays like a video. I can see the dramatic mother and child and how they stir up the small swimming pool. Love the description of acorn with arms and paddle boat. One of my favorite poems about mothers and daughters and swimming situations.
Posted 05/08/2024 01:36 PM
Robert Currie:
Yes, a lot of fine lines here. Way to go, Joe.
Posted 05/08/2024 11:41 AM
Leslie Hodge:
Also love "an acorn with arms". And "slightly faster than driftwood." Wonderful poem!
Posted 05/08/2024 11:10 AM
So vivid. I was holding MY breath, too!!
Posted 05/08/2024 10:25 AM
Posted 05/08/2024 10:19 AM
Wilda Morris:
Wow! Like Angela, I was holding my breath. I especially like the line, "Shes tiny out there, an acorn with arms."
Posted 05/08/2024 10:03 AM
Angela Hoffman:
found myself holding my breath
Posted 05/08/2024 09:42 AM
Ron Stewart:
Excellant Joe. Been there - as a lifeguard and a parent.
Posted 05/08/2024 09:23 AM
Larry Schug:
I agree with Gilbert and I like surprises like Cleo's comment at the end.
Posted 05/08/2024 08:30 AM
Gilbert Allen:
A compelling short narrative poem. "She's tiny out there, an acorn with arms" was my favorite line.
Posted 05/08/2024 08:02 AM

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