With Emma at the Ladies-Only Swimming Pond on Hampstead Heath

By Linda Gregerson b. 1950 Linda Gregerson
In payment for those mornings at the mirror while,   
                        at her
            expense, I’d started my late learning in Applied

French Braids, for all
                        the mornings afterward of Hush   
            and Just stand still,

to make some small amends for every reg-
                        iment-
            ed bathtime and short-shrifted goodnight kiss,

I did as I was told for once,   
                        gave up
            my map, let Emma lead us through the woods

“by instinct,” as the drunkard knew   
                        the natural
            prince. We had no towels, we had

no “bathing costumes,” as the children’s novels   
                        call them here, and I   
            am summer’s dullest hand at un-

premeditated moves. But when
                        the coppice of sheltering boxwood   
            disclosed its path and posted

rules, our wonted bows to seemliness seemed   
                        poor excuse.
            The ladies in their lumpy variety lay

on their public half-acre of lawn,   
                        the water
            lay in dappled shade, while Emma

in her underwear and I   
                        in an ill-
            fitting borrowed suit availed us of

the breast stroke and a modified   
                        crawl.
            She’s eight now. She will rather

die than do this in a year or two   
                        and lobbies,
            even as we swim, to be allowed to cut

her hair. I do, dear girl, I will   
                        give up
            this honey-colored metric of augmented

thirds, but not (shall we climb   
                        on the raft
            for a while?) not yet.

Linda Gregerson, “With Emma at the Ladies-Only Swimming Pool on Hampstead Heath” from The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep. Copyright © 1996 by Linda Gregerson. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: The Woman Who Died in her Sleep (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1996)

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Poet Linda Gregerson b. 1950

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Parenthood, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Summer, Living, Nature

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Linda  Gregerson

Biography

Linda Gregerson is the author of several collections of poetry and literary criticism. A Renaissance scholar, a classically trained actor, and a devotee of the sciences, Gregerson produces lyrical poems informed by her expansive reading that are inquisitive, unflinching, and tender. Tracing the connections she finds between science and poetry, Gregerson says, “I think there are rhythms of thought, fragile propositions about the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Parenthood, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Summer, Living, Nature

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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