We are thrilled to announce the first monthly contest winners for the year, based on our September prompt, "Neighborhood." There were fantastic submissions for this month. The winning written piece, "Chlorine" by Allison Yelvington, and the winning art piece, "The Fruit Shop Downstairs" by Eva Ma, are featured below. Thank you so much for participating, and you can be sure to submit to October 2017's monthly contest, which is themed "Disguise."
by Allison Yelvington
She used to love the neighborhood pool. She would beg her mother to go, offer to trade best behavior and early bedtimes for a chance to step across the hot concrete next to the community center and into the shallow end of the water. These days she drove past it devoid of desire, exercising instead an adult level of disgust for the communal bath of germs and piss and for little boys on the cusp of puberty who swam too close to legs with goggles on and eyes wide open.
Still, at times, when she hit a red light and eyes wandered, the memories of the pool would break the surface of her mind and swim lazy laps for a moment, and she could almost taste the chlorine.
There was the single time she and her siblings had convinced her father to join them. They had piled into the mini-van with pasty sunscreen faces clutching their towels, and arrived at an empty parking lot and the sign "POOL CLOSED MONDAYS."
And there were the years spent walking to end of the diving board and curling her toes around the edge, and then turning back again in terror and shame, climbing down to watch her younger sister jump instead.
She still shuttered at the sensation of running into the shirtless belly of someone else's father in a game of Marco Polo, and remembered the way her fingertips would wrinkle, and how the rough bottom of the pool would tear at the skin of her big toe.
Most of all, she remembered the feeling of laying on her back, feeling light and as if she could float into the sky above her. These were the moments that most felt like poetry, and sometimes, just for an instant, she thought about entering the cast iron gate to the pool once more. She imagined climbing in fully clothed, to the confusion of the tweens and helicopter moms and high school life guards, and just floating on her back.
"It's been two years since I've written a poem," she would say.
But then the light would change to green, and the instant was gone, the memories would submerge themselves once more, and she would keep driving.