IT'S THE FIRST THING/Susanna Childress They teach you in lifeguard courses: a person will take you down, though you are trying to help, a person will hurt you, he will drown you, despite himself. This is what panic will do, even to the most sane, its sharp strings under every last fingernail and pulled taut by circumstance, say, a sandbar you didn't know would drop out or a wave from nowhere, panic will yank its cords, will make you dance its terrible jig, and when someone, even a strapping someone, comes to help, panic begins its buoyant song, gumming your reason, and even if you have been the gentlest soul, swerving to miss raccoons on the road and bending to kiss the paraplegic women in a home, you will scratch and latch and grasp that someone with a fervor you could almost taste, tangy and succinct, like a fine mustard, firm with the gut of its tiny seed, golden, the ferment of a season you anticipate, one you have yet to know, one you must and have yet to know. Susanna Childress THE MISSOURI REVIEW
The Missouri Review – University of Missouri
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