my injuries weren’t metaphors
& yes i really do still live within
a 1km radius of both, still within
the chemical glow radiating
from the pool where we exchanged spit
on accident, obviously
by the swirl at the drains, which accepted
my vomit when Dad didn’t believe
i was feeling sick. just said i’d be fine
now that i’d rid my body
of whatever wanted out.

big tree in the park. my friend’s little brother
perched in the branches. my upturned face
curious, hers mutinous. his poor aim—spit
shot down from his mouth onto my lips.

we used to step on each other’s toes,
rub shoulders. i used to keep my cool
in the body heat of a marshalling room.
now i jump at the touch of a hand
as if it would erode my skin. as if
the water never did that already, never
cut me against its rusted edges, never
twisted my shoulders til they pinched, never
infected my equipment with its mould,
never killed tiny creatures who only sought
refuge in its deceptive opalescence.



Svetlana Sterlin writes prose, poetry, and screenplays in Brisbane, Australia. A swimming coach and former swimmer, she is the founding editor of swim meet lit mag. Her writing placed in the 2023 Richell Prize and Queensland Young Writers Award and appears in Westerly, Island, the Australian Poetry Anthology, and elsewhere. More from Svet here: https://linktr.ee/svetlanasterlin