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“A new obsession. How to get out”

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A new obsession. How to get out
of cold, metallic waters alive.
Every night for a week I dream
of my car ending up in a body
of water. If I’m not driving, someone
else is. Bob, the neighbor.
My new paranoia.
I Google how to escape a car
filling with water. I watch videos
on YouTube. I memorize the steps
of what to do if this happens. First,
you take your seat belt off. Late at night,
I read pages and pages on the internet.
What if the car lands
in the water flipped over?
Remember to stay calm.
If you panic, you will die.
News story about a woman who drives
her minivan into the ocean on purpose.
Horrified beachgoers run toward the water.
The two kids are strapped in the back seat.
One of the kids is screaming “No, mommy” —
What about the sunroof?
What if you land in the water
and your car has a sunroof?
My new car has a sunroof.
You have to let the car fill with water
so that pressure is equalized on both sides.
This is elementary physics.
If you don’t do this, it’s
impossible to open the doors.
This is the scary part.
You have to hold your breath.
None of the YouTube videos say anything
about what to do if you have
kids strapped in car seats in the car.
I look up what the dreams mean.
Water in dreams signifies turbulent emotions.
If you are in your car and there
is a flash flood, you should get out immediately.
Even six inches of water can sweep your car away.
Sweep it to where?
Maybe the forest?

I get nervous driving by the Gulf of Mexico.
My friend Dyan got into an accident
there and she said that if the car had
flipped on the other side of the road,
her whole family would
have ended up in the water.
I don’t like water.
I don’t want to touch it.
It scares me.
I know all life was born of water.
Today the government proposed
to sell off all public lands.
That before anything existed
there were rocks and then water.
I know that water is beautiful and mysterious.
But why does it sweep people away?
I want to push down the rising seas.
I look at a map of cities that will be underwater by 2100, 2200 — 
Jacksonville, New Orleans, Amsterdam.
I want to push them down with my bare hands.

Source: Poetry (May 2017)

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This poem originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Poetry magazine

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“A new obsession. How to get out”

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