Alva and the Complex Pool

You see, sooner or later, everything falters 

into radiance. The smallest components of our pent-up 


contingencies ignite. Energy shimmers in every cell. 

This afternoon, for example, from the balcony 


of my condo, in which I have lived exactly 

three years, and which overlooks the liner-blue water 


of the complex pool, I watched a boy dive.

It was half past noon. I’ d been left waiting for someone


to arrive. And though this has always been the case,

I felt no hurry as the boy’s body marked time, 


a clock hand hiccupping again into motion.

After a long dormancy, there is often a mechanical gasp,


followed by a faint smell of smoke because dust kindles

under the grinding gears. But I was not burning exactly.


As I said, I was only waiting, which, let’s face it,

is a kind of fire, but smaller. One rule of nuclear physics: 


in collapse there is light.  Energy, like a rejected lover, 

has to go somewhere. To stay is an impossibility.  


The water will ripple no matter how precisely 

you enter it, no matter how you climb the ladder,  


as when the boy hoisted himself out, 

detonating waves that could not find him.


L. S. McKee’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Copper NickelBlackbird, Gulf Coast, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. She earned her MFA from the University of Maryland, was a Wallace Stegner fellow in poetry at Stanford University, and has received scholarships and grants from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and Berea College’s Appalachian Sound Archives, among others. McKee teaches at the University of West Georgia and lives in Atlanta, where she is co-founder of Narrative Collective, an organization which supports collaborative projects of both Atlanta-based and international writers.