(Unfinished Monument Press;2005)

Winner of the Acorn-Rukeyser Chapbook Award.

"The poems in Backstroking are well made, intelligent, attentive to the music of language and feeling. This is an impressive collection." -- Kim Addonizio, author of "Tell Me," finalist for the National Book Award.



My arms dig into the puddles of light.
The chlorine steam keeps rising.

Each breath I take, amplified by water,
still crashes against my eardrums.

But now, I stare up at some sky
that couldn't have been this elemental

blue two weeks ago, before my father
drifted from attachments.

Not that I picture him there above me,
lifeguarding from eternity.

There's just a difference
in the light I backstroke through --

where absence, newly angled,
reflects across flat water

and like water, changes all the colors,
textures, gravities.

When the sky ashes over, I think it couldn't
have been this gray two weeks ago.

This must be my father, tangled
in air he just swam through.

-- originally published in Poetry International


David Martinson-Meadowhawk Prize Red Dragonfly Press; June 2016
WordTech Communications/Cherry Grove Collections;2012
Unfinished Monument Press;2005