“Buoyant” by Linda Michel-Cassidy

Linda Michel-Cassidy


The Great Salt Lake was not as beautiful as I expected.
The drive through the desert,
the white-edged saline crust,
the scrubby in-way speckled 
with wildlife warnings. 
I had to know about the floating,
what my body would do. How 
like outer space it could feel.
Whether I’d believe I had the water all to myself.
I’d been to a sensory deprivation tank, once, on a whim. I never stopped being aware of the edges, my toes and fingertips brushing the walls, the piped-in New Age music I hadn’t picked. I’d wanted to hear my own blood flowing. To feel solitary and inside-out. In it, I’d felt more physical than usual. Here is a body. You own this mess.
Yes, it has gravity and mass, but you can never truly know how it works. Inside, maybe some cells are up to no good, plotting their next cruel alliance.
I was sent for a CAT scan, 
so the doctors could be sure 
they were knifing the right thing.
They offered me Valium, 
saying it holds off panic attacks,
but I wanted to feel all of it.
How to describe the pleasures of
stillness and gravity, yet somehow floating
while nestled in that tube 
with thoughts of my insides: 
rattling and clicking,
flowing and stretching.
The hum, the darkness, the muffled voices—
and me, the science experiment 
only wanting to be left alone.
In Iceland, there were floating parties. “Fljota!” said the sign at the pool, with foam bonnets and knee pads, somehow enough to keep us aloft. All these pale bodies safely adrift and gorgeous in the midnight sun. Gentle background in a language I cannot speak. All those swallowed final syllables, lulling. My presence accepted, but not noticed.
Crazed with wakefulness, I’d swim my daily laps tranced by my exhales. I memorized the cracks on the bottom of the pool in Laugarvatn. Lane two’s gentle warp. The faint odor of sulphur bubbling throughout the town. 

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022


Linda Michel-Cassidy: “This poem began, of course, with a visit to the Great Salt Lake. This was around mile 5,000 of a West-to-East-Coast-and-back road trip. I thought I would have some epiphany about landscape, yet all I could think about was how much I liked floating. How I needed to float. It is perfect; to be at once held and not, to be both supported and untethered. Beyond simply gravity and water, floating includes sound, time, and vibration­—a multi-sensory event not unlike writing poetry. The pleasure in both comes from the willingness to be set adrift.” (web)

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