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At 78, Maurita Discovers the Waterslide

by Gary Dop

A German pear in a black one-piece
with a two-layer skirt to cover
some of her years, she doesn’t know how

to go forward, sitting at the top
of the Black Tunnel. Loyle died
two months ago, and maybe he nudges her

from the beyond or the buildup
of water behind her finally lifts her
into the unknown. When they first met

sixty-one years before the Parkinson’s,
he lifeguarded at Crab Orchard Lake.
She took off her red cap when she walked

by so he’d see her blond hair, now
as white as the sand on that beach.
He whooped like a crane

then looked away to pretend
he didn’t feel an explosion. She smiled,
but today she whoops

and wails as the black water
surrounds her and turns her down
and around through tears and laughter.

She sees their beach that summer—Loyle
skims into the water to save her
from her parents, from all the boys

from Paducah to Carbondale, and from more
nights alone. They spooned
under Kentucky’s tired sky for six decades.

She springs from the hole,
goes under and comes up baptized.
The crowd hears only the echo of her

screams. She listens only to her holy ghost
whooping back across the clear water. He still knows
what to say: Maurita, you’re Fifth Avenue.


Gary Dop moonlights as a poet, playwright, and comic in Minneapolis, where he lives with his wife and three daughters. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in New Letters, North American Review, Poetry Northwest, Rattle, and elsewhere. Dop, a graduate of the University of Nebraska MFA program, teaches creative writing at North Central University and directs the Taproot Reading Series in Minneapolis’ Elliot Park neighborhood. (9/2009)

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